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Lucas: Biden enjoys Nantucket while China has Taiwan in crosshairs



Lucas: Biden enjoys Nantucket while China has Taiwan in crosshairs

Nantucket is not Taiwan.

But it is an island. And like Taiwan, it sits off the coast of a great land mass.

In Taiwan’s case, the land mass happens to be China. For Nantucket, it’s Massachusetts.

President Joe Biden has spent Thanksgiving on Nantucket since the 1970s. This year is no different, and he and his family are on the island retreat for the holiday.

His counterpart, President Xi Jinping of China, does not have an island like Joe, which is one of the reasons he wants to invade Taiwan. It’s a case of island envy.

Every president, even a communist/capitalist/dictator like Xi, needs an island getaway. The pressure of the job makes spending time on an island a restorative necessity.

No man is an island, and no island is a man, except of course for the British Isle of Man set in the Irish Sea. But that is another story.

An island vacation can give a president the opportunity to put an ocean between him and the people he pretends to love, even though they are paying for it.

You could go back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used to spend quality time at his summer home on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, or to the Kennedys, who had the island-like compound in Hyannis and a place on Squaw Island.

Former presidents need to go to an island as well, which is why Barack Obama hangs out at his secluded 30-acre estate on nearby Martha’s Vineyard.

Even failed presidential candidates love island life. John Kerry, who was defeated for president in 2004, also has a place on Martha’s Vineyard.

In a case of island hopping, or island shopping, Kerry moved to the Vineyard from Nantucket. He now can spend Thanksgiving holiday time with both presidents — Obama, who made him secretary of state, and Biden, who appointed him climate czar.

Islands are important. Only in China’s case the island Xi wants must be bigger than Nantucket. It is a matter of appearances.

If China is to outstrip the United State as the world’s leading military and economic superpower, then it behooves China to have an island retreat bigger than Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. With more missiles, too.

Hence, Taiwan.

Joking aside, China covets Taiwan, claiming it wants to reunite the island, even though it was never officially part of China.

Taiwan is made up of people whose ancestors fled the horrors of Communist China. And while China may want Taiwan, Taiwan does not want China.

Outside of the poor North Koreans, nobody flees to China; they flee from China.

The island of Taiwan came to prominence after the Chinese Civil War (1936-1949) when the Communists, led by Mao Zedong, defeated General Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist. Army. Chiang, with the remnants of his beaten army, fled to Taiwan and established the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Although Chiang was a despot who oppressed the local population, the country moved toward democracy following his death in 1975.

Taiwan is now the open democracy that communist China was supposed to be when the west opened its doors to it.

In fact, Taiwan, a nation of some 24 million people, is an economic powerhouse with a strong military.

It is the world’s largest producer of microchips that are vital in the working of computers, cell phone, satellites, cars, airplanes, washing machines and other devices.

It is also of strategic importance in that it stands in the way of Chinese expansion and takeover of vital shipping lanes in the South China Sea.

China is the bully on the block. And, despite U.S. support for Taiwan, China is threatening to attack.

So maybe it is time to turn the tables and have Taiwan threaten to invade China and not the other way around.

Don’t smirk. It almost happened once. That was in 1950 when Mao sent an army into North Korea to attack the U.S. forces during the Korean War. The U.S. and its South Korean allies had chased the invading North Korean Army all the way to the Chinese border.

There were cries of “Unleash Chiang,” which meant approving plans to have the Nationalist leader launch a diversionary attack on mainland China from Taiwan.

It did not happen. Maybe now we should be chanting, “Unleash Joe.”

Yeah. Right.

Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.

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Suspect’s parents charged in Michigan school shooting



Suspect’s parents charged in Michigan school shooting

PONTIAC, Mich. — A prosecutor in Michigan filed involuntary manslaughter charges Friday against the parents of a boy who is accused of killing four students at Oxford High School, after saying earlier that their actions went “far beyond negligence.”

Jennifer and James Crumbley were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where harm or death was high. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

“The parents were the only individuals in the position to know the access to weapons,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said Thursday. The gun “seems to have been just freely available to that individual.”

Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, for the shooting Tuesday at Oxford High School in Oakland County, roughly 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.

Four students were killed and seven more people were injured. Three were in hospitals in stable condition.

The semi-automatic gun was purchased legally by Crumbley’s father last week, according to investigators.

Parents in the U.S. are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even as most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.

There’s no Michigan law that requires gun owners keep weapons locked away from children. McDonald, however, suggested there’s more to build a case on.

“All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” she told WJR-AM. “We obviously are prosecuting the shooter to the fullest extent. … There are other individuals who should be held accountable.”

Later at a news conference, McDonald said she hoped to have an announcement “in the next 24 hours.” She had firmly signaled that Crumbley’s parents were under scrutiny when she filed charges against their son Wednesday.

Sheriff Mike Bouchard disclosed Wednesday that the parents met with school officials about their son’s classroom behavior, just a few hours before the shooting.

McDonald said information about what had troubled the school “will most likely come to light soon.”

Crumbley stayed in school Tuesday and later emerged from a bathroom with a gun, firing at students in the hallway, police said.

The superintendent for the district late Thursday posted a YouTube video where he said the teenager was called to the office before the shooting but “no discipline was warranted.”

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Fact check: Did Kyle Rittenhouse really sue LeBron James for defamation?



Fact check: Did Kyle Rittenhouse really sue LeBron James for defamation?

Kyle Rittenhouse did not sue LeBron James for defamation. Here are details about that and other untrue claims this week.

CLAIM: Federal magistrate approved Kyle Rittenhouse’s $110 Million defamation suit against LeBron James.

THE FACTS: No such ruling was made. Rittenhouse has not filed a defamation suit against the Los Angeles Lakers star or anyone else, his spokesperson told The Associated Press. After 18-year-old Rittenhouse was acquitted of homicide charges in connection with the shooting of three people at a protest in Wisconsin, posts emerged on social media suggesting that he had filed defamation suits against some high-profile celebrities, including James. However, the claims are “absolutely not true,” according to David Hancock, a spokesperson for Rittenhouse and his family. “No legal actions have been taken against any organization or person in particular,” Hancock told the AP. He added that Rittenhouse and his legal team are not currently discussing any plans to file any defamation lawsuits. The report appeared to have originated on a satire website. Similar claims saying Rittenhouse had filed defamation suits have circulated on social media in recent days. On Sunday, the AP reported on false claims saying he had filed lawsuits against CNN, along with Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, both hosts of “The View.” Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and injured another during protests that followed the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, who faced charges, including first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree homicide, argued he acted in self-defense. A jury acquitted him on all charges on Nov. 19.

— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.


Video of first lady’s book reading manipulated to add child’s comment

CLAIM: Video captures a child yelling an expletive at Jill Biden as she begins reading a story to a group of students.

THE FACTS: The video clip was manipulated to insert audio of a child yelling a disparaging comment. It emerged Monday after the first lady sat down with a group of second grade students from Maryland to host a story time at the White House as part of the annual unveiling of holiday decorations. The altered video shows a child screaming, “Shut the f— up,” just as Biden introduces the picture book she wrote. But that comes from an unrelated video that has been shared online since at least 2019. While some people commenting on the video acknowledged that it was altered, and linked to the source of the audio, others shared the falsified video as real. The inserted audio has spread online for years, and first emerged in a video that appeared to show a young child cursing during a school graduation ceremony as adults tried to quiet the situation. It is unclear where the video was taken, but it has since become a widely-shared sound effect and has been edited into other videos, often in a comedic way. In the altered Biden video, the first lady began to introduce her 2012 book, “Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops,” saying: “When my son was away, my granddaughter — just like you kids — really, really missed her daddy. So I wrote this book to tell other kids, ’cause there’s lots of kids who don’t know what it’s like —.” The sound of the yelling child was then inserted at that point to make it appear a student heckled Biden mid-sentence. A video of Biden’s full remarks shows she was not interrupted and finished her sentence.

— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in Atlanta contributed this report.


Ghislaine Maxwell trial audio isn’t accessible by phone line

CLAIM: Members of the public can call the phone number 844-721-7237 and enter access code 9991787 to listen to live audio of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial.

THE FACTS: The phone number is from a previous teleconference and the code is no longer active. Callers to this number who use the code will receive the message: “your access code was not recognized,” as verified through an attempt by The Associated Press. Further, there is no such telephone line to listen to the trial audio, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. As Maxwell’s trial got underway on charges she groomed underage victims to have unwanted sex with the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, social media users circulated a number of false claims related to the trial, as well as incorrect explanations for why it is not being publicly broadcast online or on TV. Among the false claims that emerged this week was the assertion that a phone number and access code published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in October would allow callers to listen in on the proceedings. Public telephone access to in-court criminal proceedings was previously provided in some cases “due to substantial restrictions on in-person attendance” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement from the Office of the District Court Executive. The accommodation was discontinued in early November as in-person viewing was able to resume more regularly. Members of the media are not banned from the trial, either, as other social media users have falsely suggested. Reporters and members of the public are still able to watch the trial live, both in the courtroom, as well as in overflow rooms where it will be streamed for those who don’t get a seat, Judge Alison Nathan wrote in a Nov. 24 ruling. There are no other live feeds except those within the courthouse. Federal courts typically do not allow cameras like some state courts do. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to her charges and denied wrongdoing.

— Sophia Tulp


Stores can’t write off customer donations made at checkout

CLAIM: When a customer elects to donate to charity at a store’s checkout counter, the store can write off that donation on its own end-of-year taxes.

THE FACTS: Stores can’t write off a customer’s point-of-sale donations, because they don’t count as company income, according to tax policy experts. Stores are only allowed to write off their own donations, such as when a store donates a certain portion of all its proceeds to charity. A widely circulating meme, shared thousands of times this week on Facebook and Instagram, claimed that retailers ask customers to add a little more for charity when checking out in order to fund their own tax write-offs. That’s misguided, according to Renu Zaretsky, a writer at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “The only way a company can write off money is if it’s income,” Zaretsky said. “And this is not counted as income.” Rather than receiving a customer’s donation as income, the company serves as a holding agent for that money, Zaretsky said. Customers may tally up their cash register donations for their own tax returns, but stores are not allowed to claim those. However, if a company gives to a charity on its own, not through prompting a customer to give, it can write off that money, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation. Checkout charity campaigns bring in millions of dollars for charitable organizations each year, but customers should know they aren’t obligated to give when prompted, according to Zaretsky. They should also know, though, that a donation option at the cash register isn’t a sign of a money-hungry organization looking to lower its tax bill.

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed the report.


The World Economic Forum did not write about the omicron variant in July

CLAIM: The World Economic Forum published a story about the new coronavirus variant, now named omicron, in July 2021, months before South Africa first reported it to the World Health Organization this week.

THE FACTS: The WEF first published an article about detecting variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in July, but archived versions of the story show it did not mention omicron at that time. The article was updated in November after the WHO’s announcement, the archives show. Scientists in South Africa identified and reported the new variant, B.1.1.529, on Nov. 24, saying it was behind a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. By Nov. 26, the WHO had declared it a “variant of concern” and given it the name “omicron.” The next day, Twitter users circulated posts linking to the WEF article, suggesting that it showed the variant was not new at all. “They’re starting to make mistakes. WHO just said that ‘Omicron’ was first reported by South Africa on 11/24/21. However, WEF reported this EXACT same ‘variant’—B.1.1.529, out of South Africa—way back in July. Oops,” reads one post that was retweeted over 3,000 times. But previous versions of the WEF article stored by the Wayback Machine, an internet archive, show that it did not mention the new variant until recently, although the forum failed to note that the article had been updated until later. An archive of the page from July 12, when the story was first published, contains no mention of the new variant. Another version archived on Sept. 22 shows the article unchanged. A version from Nov. 26, after omicron was announced, shows the article had then been updated to say “South African scientists have discovered a new COVID-19 variant” and that it is called “B.1.1.529.” The article, however, still did not note that it had been updated — retaining the July 12 timestamp — as the false claims began circulating on social media, an archived version shows. A note was added later in the day saying: “This article was last updated on 26 November 2021.”

— Associated Press reporter Karena Phan in Sacramento, Calif., contributed this report.


Photos of London Olympics don’t show prior knowledge of pandemic

CLAIM: Photos of the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012 prove that the COVID-19 pandemic has been planned for a long time.

THE FACTS: The opening ceremony didn’t predict the COVID-19 pandemic, nor did its imagery relate in any way to the virus that would emerge and shut down the world eight years later, as a widely circulating Facebook post falsely claimed. The post shared images from the ceremony, from a scene featuring hospital beds, women in dresses and a giant, skeletal figure in a black robe with a white wand towering overhead, to falsely claim they prove the COVID-19 pandemic was premeditated. “Remember the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony, with the giant death figure holding a needle, the dancing nurses and all of the children in hospital beds?” the post read. “It’s starting to make a lot more sense now. They have had this planned for a long time.” However, the costumes and figures in the ceremony had no relationship to the COVID-19 pandemic, and predated it by years. Instead, they paid tribute to Britain’s National Health Service and to iconic British children’s literature, including the “Harry Potter” franchise and its robed villain, Voldemort. “To the strains of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, a scene of children in hospital beds was overrun by literary villains including Captain Hook, Cruella De Vil, the Queen of Hearts and Voldemort, before a group of flying nannies – reminiscent of Mary Poppins – arrived from the skies to banish the nightmarish characters,” the Olympics website explains. Patients and hospital staff from a London hospital were among the performers in the spectacle, according to local press reports.

— Ali Swenson


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Broncos Journal: Twenty-two years after first meeting, Vic Fangio and Andy Reid match wits again



Broncos Journal: Twenty-two years after first meeting, Vic Fangio and Andy Reid match wits again

Ten things about the Broncos entering Sunday night’s game at Kansas City:

1. Despite their significant play-calling experience, teams with Broncos coach Vic Fangio (18th year as a play-caller) and Chiefs coach Andy Reid (23rd year) have met only nine times. Reid (Kansas City and Philadelphia) has a 5-4 edge with averages of 25.2 points and 343.4 yards against Fangio (Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago and the Broncos). Fangio’s defenses have forced 14 turnovers.

2. The first Fangio-Reid game was in 1999 when Fangio was with Indianapolis and Reid was the Eagles’ first-year coach. The Colts won 44-17, holding Philadelphia to 212 yards and forcing five turnovers. In 2011, Fangio’s 49ers won 24-23 despite allowing 513 yards (they forced three takeaways). Reid has won all four games against the Fangio-coached Broncos.

3. Reid on Fangio: “He does a great job every year. His mind is special when it comes to the defensive side of the football. They have an influx of young players and new players and they’re playing their tails off. You put the tape on and they’re playing hard and they’re very sound at what they do.”

4. Fangio on Reid: “It’s a difficult offense to defend by the design of it. It’s a spread-out offense. The guys running the offense are really, really fast. You have those ingredients and then put (Patrick) Mahomes in there. They run a similar offense that they ran when Alex Smith was there. Mahomes is Mahomes. That makes it a lot better.”

5. Do the Chiefs just run more stuff offensively? Yes. “There is a variety of things,” defensive backs coach Christian Parker said. “You talk about formations, the actual concepts, where guys line up; a lot of teams, you can dial in and say, ‘This guy does this, that guy does that.’ You can’t dial in with these guys. They do a good job breaking their tendencies each and every week so you have to know yourself, know your rules and go play ball.”

6. Even though he’s eligible to return from injured reserve, Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan (knee) never got out of the blocks and will miss a fourth consecutive game. Kyle Fuller will get the call as the nickel back and he’s had his moments playing in tight quarters, but the Chargers completed eight of nine passes in man coverage against him last week.

7. Parker on Fuller making the adjustment to a nickel role: “Even when he wasn’t playing, he was practicing hard and he was running extra gassers on the sideline during the special teams periods to stay in shape because he’s been in this game long enough, he knows he can be called on in a moment’s notice and it happened when we played the Raiders (in Week 6). Pat (Surtain II) got banged up and you didn’t even need to look for Kyle to go in — he was on the field, they targeted him and he made a stop on third down.”

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