Discover more from It's Meseidy
Weekly News Bites #024 | IRS whistleblower testifies, Hunter Biden pleads guilty, and Musk vs. Zuck cagefight?
All of the top stories 📰 of the week in small bites.
It’s FRIDAY, June 23! YAY
Some of the stories this week!
IRS whistleblowers reveal alleged corruption involving Joe Biden and his son Hunter, implicating influence and tax crimes.
House votes to censure Rep. Adam Schiff amid contentious debate over collusion claims and tensions between parties.
Hunter Biden to plead guilty to tax charges reaches agreement to avoid gun-related conviction.
Amazon customer alleges being locked out of smart home devices due to false accusation; company investigates and vows to address concerns.
California introduces AB 957 bill to classify the denial of a minor's gender identity as child abuse.
A new report suggests Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists were the first humans to contract COVID-19.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken's recent statement in Beijing, where he affirmed that the US "does not support Taiwan independence.
Elon Musk challenges Mark Zuckerberg to a 'cage match' amidst social media rivalry.
Follow me on Instagram!
The House Ways and Means Committee released a report based on accounts from two IRS whistleblowers, exposing alleged corruption involving Joe Biden and his son Hunter. According to the whistleblowers, the Justice Department attempted to block search warrants and cover up Hunter Biden's tax crimes. One whistleblower claimed that Hunter demanded payment from a Chinese business associate via WhatsApp, while another revealed threats made to a Chinese Communist Party official. The report suggests that Joe Biden used his influence to support his son's business dealings. These allegations reinforce the notion that Hunter Biden's ventures heavily relied on his influential father.
→ Special Counsel John Durham testified before the House Judiciary Committee, discussing his report on the Trump-Russia investigation. Durham emphasized that the findings of his investigation were serious and could pose significant national security risks if not addressed by the FBI. The report revealed wrongdoing related to the FBI's reliance on the discredited Steele dossier and highlighted issues such as a lack of investigative discipline and bias. Durham stated that accountability, rather than quick fixes, was required to address the problems. He refuted claims of partisanship and emphasized that the law should apply equally to all. The FBI responded to the report, stating that corrective actions had already been implemented. Overall, Durham's testimony shed light on the flaws and biases in the FBI's handling of the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
→ The House of Representatives voted along party lines to censure Rep. Adam Schiff, accusing him of amplifying claims of collusion between Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia. After the vote, Democrats surrounded House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, chanting "Shame" and "Santos." McCarthy's attempts to read the resolution and call for Schiff's censure were initially disrupted by jeering from Democratic members. The censure resolution passed by a vote of 213-209, with six lawmakers voting "present." An earlier resolution to censure Schiff failed, and the one voted on Wednesday removed the provision to fine Schiff $16 million. Schiff has denounced the censure efforts as false and retaliatory. The bitter tensions between Republicans and Democrats were evident during the proceedings, with heated exchanges between the two sides. Schiff, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had been involved in the first impeachment proceedings against Trump. The censure resolution was introduced by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna and coincided with special counsel John Durham's report on the FBI's Russia investigation. Schiff is currently running for the Democratic nomination in California's US Senate race.
→ Hunter Biden has agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of failing to pay income taxes and has entered into an agreement to avoid a conviction on a gun-related charge. The news has led to accusations of favorable treatment towards Hunter Biden, with former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies criticizing the outcome. The charges stem from investigations into Hunter Biden's activities in Ukraine and China, and he has acknowledged his struggles with substance abuse. Although he may face a sentencing range of 12-18 months, experts believe the odds of him being sentenced to prison are low due to factors such as being a first-time offender and accepting responsibility for his actions. Republicans have criticized the plea deal as lenient, while Democrats view it as a result of the Justice Department's independent pursuit of justice.
→ Former President Donald Trump's trial for charges of willfully retaining classified government records and obstructing justice has been scheduled for August 14, according to a court order by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon. The trial, led by special counsel Jack Smith, aims to be speedy, but legal experts caution that handling highly classified evidence, potential challenges from Trump's legal team, and the judge's management of the schedule may cause delays. Trump's defense lawyers have been ordered not to release evidence to the media or public, and strict conditions have been imposed on Trump's access to the materials. The trial date precedes the first Republican presidential debate by nine days.
→ House Republicans failed to gather the required two-thirds majority to overturn President Biden's veto of a resolution aiming to cancel up to $20,000 of a borrower's student debt. The attempt to overturn Biden's veto, made through a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, received a 221-206 vote, falling short of the necessary support. The CRA resolution was introduced after the Government Accountability Office determined that Biden's student loan forgiveness plan was subject to congressional review. The resolution had previously passed in both the House and the Senate. Despite the veto, Biden's debt relief plan still faces potential scrutiny from the conservative-majority Supreme Court.
→ Texas lawmakers have approved a bill that would expand the definition of illegal public performances of sexual conduct, raising concerns among drag artists who fear it could criminalize their shows. The bill prohibits real or simulated groping, arousal, and display of sex toys in a "prurient" manner in front of minors or on public property. It also restricts wearing accessories or prosthetics that enhance the female or male form in such settings. Violators could face up to a year in jail, and businesses hosting prohibited performances could be fined $10,000 for each violation. Critics argue that the new restrictions are too vague and worry about potential uneven targeting. Supporters claim it is necessary to protect children from explicit content, while critics raise concerns that the ambiguous nature of the violations could extend to other performances or private behavior. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Republican Governor Abbott.
→ Five people died in the Titan submersible, which experienced a catastrophic implosion near the bow of the Titanic wreck. The individuals onboard included the CEO of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, British businessman Hamish Harding, and renowned explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet. Parts of the submersible were discovered 1,600 feet away from the wreckage. While it remains unclear what caused the destruction, the US Navy detected an acoustic anomaly consistent with an implosion. The international search involved teams from the US, Canada, UK, and France. The families of the victims expressed gratitude for the search efforts. The debris will be analyzed to shed light on the cause of the disaster potentially, and ROVs will continue investigating the site.
→ Last week, a boat carrying migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece, resulting in a death toll of 82, with hundreds more missing. The fishing boat, reportedly carrying up to 750 people, capsized on June 14 near Pylos, Greece. Despite repeated attempts by Greek and United Nations authorities to offer assistance, all requests were declined by the passengers who wanted to continue their journey to Italy. Over 100 people were rescued, but none of them were wearing life jackets. The migrants hailed from Egypt and Eastern Libya, including Egyptians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Palestinians. The nine suspected crewmen have been arrested and are facing charges. Greece is facing international criticism for its response, with accusations of failing to adhere to international maritime law and displaying a hardline stance on refugees. The incident highlights the dangers faced by migrants attempting to reach Europe, with the central Mediterranean route being the most perilous.
→ An Amazon customer, Brandon Jackson, alleges that he was locked out of his smart home devices after a delivery driver falsely accused him of using a racial slur. Jackson shared his experience in a Medium article titled "A Tale of Unwanted Disruption: My Week Without Amazon." According to him, he contacted a company representative who informed him about the accusation made by the driver. Jackson claimed to have video evidence proving his innocence. Although his devices were still partially functional, he expressed his disappointment and considered discontinuing the use of Amazon Echo devices. An Amazon spokesperson stated that the company is investigating the situation and working towards resolving the customer's concerns while implementing measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.
→ Federal prosecutors have requested the removal of five charges against alleged crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried after a ruling by a Bahamas court raised doubts about the correct procedure for bringing those charges. Bankman-Fried's legal team had argued that the charges were not part of his original indictment, leading to the request from federal prosecutors. The charges have been "severed" or postponed until 2024, allowing the government time to address concerns from the Bahamas government and ensure compliance with the U.S.-Bahamas extradition treaty. Bankman-Fried's legal team will now face two separate legal battles, one for the original eight-count indictment later this year and another in 2024 for the five counts requested to be severed. Bankman-Fried is accused of orchestrating the theft of billions of dollars of customer assets and the collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, and he has pleaded not guilty.
→ According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), math and reading scores have suffered due to pandemic learning loss. Average math scores for 13-year-olds dropped by nine points, and reading scores fell by four points compared to the previous academic year. These scores are the lowest since 1990 for math and 2004 for reading. Racial groups, except for Asian American students, experienced a decline in math scores, while white students, Black students, and those of two or more races saw a decrease in reading scores. The pandemic has exacerbated a long-standing decline in academic achievement, with scores declining over the past decade. The study also revealed that students who missed more days of school had lower scores, and there has been a decrease in students reading for fun and taking algebra. The results are consistent with previous reports showing setbacks in various grade levels and subjects. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressed optimism about the efforts to address these challenges but acknowledged that there is still a long road ahead.
It's Meseidy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
→ California's AB 957 bill, co-introduced by Assembly Member Lori Wilson and Senator Scott Wiener, seeks to classify the denial of a minor's gender identity by one or both guardians as "child abuse." The amendment to the Family Code's Section 3011 addresses child custody disputes, deeming the rejection of a child's gender identity as a violation of their health, safety, and welfare, thereby equating it with abuse. The bill's revision emphasizes that affirmation of gender identity is just one of several factors that a judge should consider when determining custody agreements. However, critics, such as Nicole Peterson from the civil rights advocacy group Facts Law Truth Justice, express concerns about the potential impact and widespread implications of the bill beyond California if signed into law.
→ Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority faces a lawsuit over the admission of a male student and allegations of anti-trans bias. The Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) sorority is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against it by six female University of Wyoming students who objected to the admission of a male student, Artemis Langford, into their chapter. KKG argues that the lawsuit is baseless and motivated by anti-trans bias, claiming it has the right to define its membership. The plaintiffs allege that Langford's admission violated the sorority's corporate charter and caused discomfort among members due to his behavior and interactions. KKG maintains that its policies since 2015 allow for the acceptance of transgender women and that Langford's admission did not violate any bylaws. The sorority encourages the plaintiffs to resign if they disagree with its inclusive stance. The lawsuit also involves KKG's Building Co., which provides housing for the sorority. The plaintiffs argue that their housing contracts were violated when Langford was allowed to live in the sorority house. KKG asserts that the Building Co. has no involvement in member selection and should not be held responsible.
→ New report suggests Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists were the first humans to contract COVID-19. According to a new report, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including Ben Hu, Ping Yu, and Yan Zhu, were the first humans to contract COVID-19. These scientists were conducting research on SARS-like viruses and performing "gain-of-function" experiments to understand their dangers. Multiple US government officials confirmed this information, which was revealed four months after FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that the pandemic likely originated from an accidental outbreak at the Chinese lab. Hu, who studied under virologist Shi Zhengli, was known for his risky virus research and had been making chimeric SARS-like viruses. There were concerns about safety practices at the institute, as a video reportedly showed Hu and a lab worker without protective gear. Investigations are ongoing, and the Chinese government has refused independent investigators access to the institute. President Biden signed a bill in March requiring the declassification of all information related to the investigations. The unclassified report is due to be submitted to Congress soon.
→ Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing a new trial that could extend his prison sentence by up to 30 years. The trial is being held at a maximum security prison in Melekhovo, east of Moscow, where Navalny is currently serving a nine-year sentence for fraud and contempt of court. Navalny, known for exposing corruption and organizing anti-Kremlin protests, was arrested in January 2021 after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. The new charges against Navalny are related to the activities of his anti-corruption foundation, and his allies argue that they retroactively criminalize the foundation's work since its establishment in 2011. Navalny's trial comes amid a broader crackdown on dissent in Russia while tensions escalate with Ukraine. Reporters were not allowed in the courtroom, and Navalny's parents were denied entry. Despite his gaunt appearance, Navalny vehemently rejected the charges and pleaded for an open trial, accusing Russian authorities of suppressing information about the case.
→ Secretary of State Antony Blinken's recent statement in Beijing, where he affirmed that the US "does not support Taiwan independence," has sparked controversy among Republicans in Congress. Critics see Blinken's remarks and his failure to re-establish military communication as a capitulation to China. The US follows a "One China policy," recognizing Taiwan as unsettled in terms of sovereignty but not taking a formal position on it. While China adheres to its "One China principle," which considers Taiwan as part of China, with a separate system of government. Despite the US policy's ambiguity, the federal Taiwan Relations Act states that the US will come to Taiwan's aid if China employs military intervention. The US has been urged to pass legislation to clarify its position and strengthen coordination with allies in planning for a potential crisis involving Taiwan.
→ China and Cuba are in negotiations to establish a joint military training facility on Cuba's northern coast, according to U.S. officials. The discussions are at an advanced stage, raising concerns in Washington about the potential stationing of Chinese troops and increased security and intelligence operations just 100 miles off Florida's coast. The Biden administration has reached out to Cuban officials to discourage the deal, leveraging concerns about ceding sovereignty. The facility is part of China's "Project 141," aimed at expanding its global military base and logistical support network. China and Cuba already jointly operate four eavesdropping stations on the island. The proposed facility could house Chinese troops and expand intelligence gathering against the U.S., including electronic eavesdropping. While U.S.-China tensions have recently eased, concerns remain about China's activities in Cuba, with some officials linking them to the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. Cuba is proceeding cautiously due to its struggling economy and efforts to ease U.S. sanctions. The Biden administration has expressed concerns and aims to disrupt China's presence in Cuba.
→ Elon Musk challenges Mark Zuckerberg to a 'cage match' amidst social media rivalry. Twitter owner Elon Musk has challenged Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Meta and an amateur Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament winner, to a "cage match" after Meta's Instagram announced plans to develop a text-based social media platform to rival Twitter. Musk, who has trained in various martial arts, including karate and jiu-jitsu, expressed his readiness for the challenge on Twitter. Zuckerberg, in his defense, explained his success in jiu-jitsu by emphasizing the importance of being willing to start as a beginner and endure embarrassment. Musk has a history of challenging public figures, including a playful challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In response to the rivalry, Meta's chief product officer mentioned their text-based app as a response to Twitter, promising a "sanely run" platform. Musk, on the other hand, has recently hired an executive to revamp Twitter's revenue streams after a decline in advertisers following his takeover.