The case has caused palpable unease at the Fox News Channel, said several people there, who would speak only anonymously. Anchors and executives have been preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which is hoping to prove that network employees knew that wild accusations of ballot rigging in the 2020 election were false. The hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.

Dominion is trying to build a case that aims straight at the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, Dominion lawyers have laid out how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a plan after the election to lure back viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter-fraud claims.

Libel law doesn’t protect lies. But it does leave room for the media to cover newsworthy figures who tell them. And Fox is arguing, in part, that’s what shields it from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs front and center in the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be a “fruitless fishing expedition.” A spokeswoman for Fox News said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the suit, that the network was chasing viewers from the far-right fringe.

Fox is expected to dispute Dominion’s estimated self-valuation of $1 billion and argue that $1.6 billion is an excessively high amount for damages, as it has in a similar defamation case filed by another voting machine company, Smartmatic.

A spokesman for Dominion declined to comment. In its initial complaint, the company’s lawyers wrote that “The truth matters,” adding, “Lies have consequences.”

denied a motion from Fox that would have excluded the parent Fox Corporation from the case — a much larger target than Fox News itself. That business encompasses the most profitable parts of the Murdoch American media portfolio and is run directly by Rupert Murdoch, 91, who serves as chairman, and his elder son, Lachlan, the chief executive.

Soon after, Fox replaced its outside legal team on the case and hired one of the country’s most prominent trial lawyers — a sign that executives believe that the chances the case is headed to trial have increased.

Dominion’s lawyers have focused some of their questioning in depositions on the decision-making hierarchy at Fox News, according to one person with direct knowledge of the case, showing a particular interest in what happened on election night inside the network in the hours after it projected Mr. Trump would lose Arizona. That call short-circuited the president’s plan to prematurely declare victory, enraging him and his loyalists and precipitating a temporary ratings crash for Fox.

These questions have had a singular focus, this person said: to place Lachlan Murdoch in the room when the decisions about election coverage were being made. This person added that while testimony so far suggests the younger Murdoch did not try to pressure anyone at Fox News to reverse the call — as Mr. Trump and his campaign aides demanded the network do — he did ask detailed questions about the process that Fox’s election analysts had used after the call became so contentious.

The case was settled in 2017.

But Fox has also been searching for evidence that could, in effect, prove the Dominion conspiracy theories weren’t really conspiracy theories. Behind the scenes, Fox’s lawyers have pursued documents that would support numerous unfounded claims about Dominion, including its supposed connections to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013, and software features that were ostensibly designed to make vote manipulation easier.

According to court filings, the words and phrases that Fox has asked Dominion to search for in internal communications going back more than a decade include “Chavez” and “Hugo,” along with “tampered,” “backdoor,” “stolen” and “Trump.”

Eric Munchel of Tennessee, in which he is brandishing a shotgun, with Mr. Trump on a television in the background. The television is tuned to Fox Business.

But the hurdle Dominion must clear is whether it can persuade a jury to believe that people at Fox knew they were spreading lies.

“Disseminating ‘The Big Lie’ isn’t enough,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. “It has to be a knowing lie.”

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Todd Tucker Advances to Executive Vice President for Real Estate Operations and Qualifying Broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties

ROSWELL, Ga.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, one of the largest and most successful real estate organizations in the country, recently announced Todd Tucker, formerly Georgia Properties Senior Vice President of Real Estate Operations, is now Executive Vice President for Real Estate Operations and Qualifying Broker.Tucker is a celebrated real estate leader with decades of experience in training, technology, and brokerage management. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties is a full-service brokerage with 29 office locations throughout Georgia and more than 1,600 sales associates.

“Todd would easily make any list of who’s who in real estate for Atlanta,” said Dan Forsman, Georgia Properties Chairman. “He has taken on so many roles in our company and I couldn’t think of a better professional – and person – to lead our real estate operations and ensure our sales associates’ continued success.”

Added DeAnn Golden, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties: “I’ve been working with Todd for more than 20 years and his dedication to our industry, company and sales associates is absolutely unmatched.”

Tucker began his real estate career as a sales associate in April 1997 and quickly rose to a top producer. He joined the staff at Georgia Properties – then Prudential Georgia Realty – in 2003 as assistant broker in the North Cobb office (now Northwest Office). He then became the Managing Broker of the Douglasville West Georgia Office in 2004 and the broker of the East Cobb office in 2011. In addition to being managing broker for several of the Georgia Properties offices, he has also served as a trainer, technology trainer and safety officer. As part of his expanded role, Tucker oversees many facets of the organization, from the regional managers to facilities and commercial real estate to creator/facilitator of the Chairman’s Circle top associates mastermind groups where he currently oversees five top associates’ groups that meet monthly. Most recently, Todd is a pioneer leader of the newly created BHHS Global Mastermind groups with associate participation from all over the nation.

Deeply involved with both his community and industry, Tucker has held many positions in local Realtor organizations. He served as President of the Cobb Association of REALTORSⓇ in 2004 and President of West Georgia Board of REALTORSⓇ in 2009. He is a former Governor for the Graduate REALTORSⓇ Institute (GRI), past RPAC Trustee and past RIAC Trustee for the Georgia Association of REALTORSⓇ (GAR). Tucker was awarded Realtor of the Year three times in his career with his local Realtor Board and was honored with the Young Achievers Award from the Young Professionals Network (YPN) of GAR. Tucker has served in many positions on the state level over the years but most recently he served on GAR’s Nominating Committee and Special Media Task Force. He also holds the Accredited Buyers Agent (ABR) national designation, the Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) designation and a broker’s license in Georgia and Alabama. He is a proud graduate of the University of Georgia.

“I look forward to seeing Todd excel in this new role,” said Gino Blefari, CEO of HomeServices of America. “He’s an extraordinary leader with the experience to help guide Georgia Properties in this new and exciting chapter of their growth story.”

“I couldn’t be prouder to take on this expanded role for our brokerage,” Tucker said. “We are more than a company, we are a family, and I am honored to take the responsibility of helping our family grow, thrive and prosper.”

ABOUT BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES GEORGIA PROPERTIES

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties is a full service real estate brokerage company offering residential, commercial and property management services. With over $5.2 billion in sales 2021, 29 office locations and more than 1,600 sales associates, the company continues to expand its footprint in the Atlanta Metro market, including North Georgia Mountain and Lakes and the Southern Crescent. To learn more, visit www.bhhsgeorgia.com.

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U.S. Gas Prices Fall Below $4 a Gallon, AAA Says. Here’s Why.

Gas prices in the United States fell below $4 a gallon on Thursday, retreating to their lowest level since March, a sign of relief for Americans struggling with historically high inflation and a political boost for President Biden, who has been under pressure to do more to bring down prices.

The national average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline now stands at $3.99, according to AAA. That’s still higher than it was a year ago but well below a peak of nearly $5.02 in mid-June. The average price has fallen for 58 consecutive days.

Energy costs feed into broad measures of inflation, so the drop is also good news for policymakers who have struggled to contain rising prices. It is a welcome development for Mr. Biden, who has spent recent weeks trumpeting the drop in gasoline prices, even as he pledges to do more to bring costs down. Mr. Biden has criticized oil companies for their record profits, and this year he released some of the nation’s stockpile of oil in an effort to reduce price pressures.

cost of gasoline at the pump is determined by global oil prices, which have tumbled to their lowest point since the war in Ukraine began in February, a drop that reflects in part the growing concern of a worldwide recession that will hit demand for crude.

said in a statement, citing it as one example of recent “encouraging economic developments.”

For consumers, falling gas prices offer a respite from a shaky economy, rapid inflation and other worries. “We have new rising diseases and inflation, and people expect a recession,” said Zindy Contreras, a student and part-time waitress in Los Angeles. “If I just had to not worry about my gas tank taking up $70, that’d be a huge relief, for once.”

Ms. Contreras has been filling up her 2008 Mazda 3 only halfway as a result of the higher prices, costing her $25 to $30 each visit to the pump, and she had found opportunities to car-pool with friends. These days, Ms. Contreras usually gets gas twice a week, driving 15 miles to and from work each week and an additional 10 to 50 miles a week, depending on her plans.

The national average price masks wide regional variations. Prices vary according to the health of local economies, proximity to refineries and state taxes, said Devin Gladden, a spokesman with AAA.

weaker demand because of high costs, a sharp decline in global oil prices in recent months and the suspension of taxes on gasoline in a handful of states.

Nearly two-thirds of people in a recent AAA survey said they had altered their driving habits because of high prices, mostly by taking fewer trips and combining errands. On Thursday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries revised down its forecast for global oil demand this year.

Regardless of the causes, the lower prices are a welcome change for drivers for whom the added expense — often $10 to $15 extra for a tank of gas — had become yet another hurdle as they sought to get their lives back to normal as the coronavirus pandemic eased.

“The affordability squeeze is becoming very real when you see these high prices at the gas pump,” said Beth Ann Bovino, the U.S. chief economist at S&P Global. “So, in that sense, it’s a positive sign certainly for those folks that are struggling.”

That cushion — cash not spent on gasoline that can go elsewhere — also extends to businesses, particularly as the price of diesel fuel drops. Diesel, which is used to fuel, for instance, farm equipment, construction machinery and long-haul trucks, has also fallen from a June record, though at a slower pace than gasoline prices.

The drop in the price of gas is also good news for the economy, as businesses face less pressure to pass energy costs on to their customers — a move that would add to the country’s inflation problem.

hurricanes later this year could damage Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines, choking off supplies.

For now, though, the steady drop in the cost of fuel offers Americans a reprieve.

“If gasoline prices stay at or near the levels they have reached, that would mean much more cushion for households,” Ms. Bovino said.

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U.S. Home Prices End First Half of Year on Strong Note, homegenius Home Price Index Reveals

WAYNE, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Home prices across the United States rose in the first six months of the year at an annualized rate of 15.5 percent, according to homegenius Home Price Index (HPI) data released today by homegenius Real Estate LLC, a Radian Group Inc. company (NYSE: RDN). The company believes the homegenius HPI is the most comprehensive and timely measure of U.S. housing market prices and conditions available in the market today.

The homegenius HPI also rose 16.9 percent year-over-year (July 2021 to June 2022), which was slightly higher than the year-over-year increase of 16.3 percent recorded last month. The annualized increase represents the continuation of record-breaking annualized yearly gains in recent months. The homegenius HPI is calculated based on the estimated values of more than 70 million unique addresses each month, covering all single-family property types and geographies.

“The U.S. remains in the throes of a severe housing shortage, which has offset the impact of quickly rising mortgage rates and lower equity markets. While affordability concerns have become even more important over the last six months, the pent-up demand for homes has meant that prices have just continued to go up. While inventory has been starting to rise, last month we saw the lowest level of homes for sale of any June over the last 15 years,” said Steve Gaenzler, SVP of Products, Data and Analytics. “However, some relief for prospective buyers may thankfully be on the horizon. There are signs that open house showings and bidding wars have slowed, returning many markets from frenzy to a more normal, and healthy pace.”

NATIONAL DATA AND TRENDS

Nationally, the median estimated price for single-family and condominium homes rose to $330,776 in June from the $325,684 recorded in May. Across the U.S., home prices rose 17.6 percent in the second quarter, a solid increase over the first-quarter gain of 12.9 percent.

Across the U.S., demand for homes remains healthy considering supply challenges. June 2022 recorded 312,000 real estate closings. That is the lowest level of sales in the month of June since 2014. However, to put this in historical context, the absorption rate (measured as the count of sales as a percentage of the prior month’s active listings) was 34.8 percent in June, the second highest for any June and only lower than the 39.5 percent of June 2021. Homes continue to sell in record time. Nationally, the number of days from listing to closing dropped to 66 days, the fewest days for any June on record and the third consecutive month under 70 days.

REGIONAL DATA AND TRENDS

In the first half of 2022, all six regional indices recorded positive home price appreciation rates in excess of 10.0 percent (annualized). The South and Southwest turned in the strongest first half of the year, notching 21.8 and 16.5 percent annualized appreciation, respectively. The other four regions ranged from 10.9 percent (Midwest) to 12.7 percent (MidAtlantic). Compared to the final six months of 2021, all regions except for the South reported slower annualized appreciation. Based on recent appreciation data, the median-priced U.S. home has gained more than $20,000 in equity value thus far in 2022. Even as the most expensive region, with a median estimate of more than $580,000, the West recorded nearly a 12 percent annualized appreciation in the first half of 2022.

In the South, home prices in hot markets for remote work relocation, like the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, have led the region in appreciation rates over the first half of the year. Each of these states finished the first six months with annualized price growth of more than 20 percent.

The median estimated price of a home in Florida, the fastest growing state in the U.S. this year price-wise], was $330,975 as of the end of June, growing by nearly +$80,000 in just the last year. In contrast, Idaho, the once-darling of state house price appreciation, has struggled for the last quarter and finished Q2 with a lower estimated median home price than at the end of Q1, the first state-level negative quarter for home price appreciation since the start of the pandemic.

METROPOLITAN AREA DATA AND TRENDS

During the first six months of 2022, all the largest metro areas in the U.S recorded price appreciation rates faster than the first quarter. However, in June, only 9 of the largest 20 metro areas recorded higher rates of annual appreciation than the prior month. The remaining 11 recorded slower rates of appreciation month-over-month. Of the 11 metros recording a weaker month in June as compared to May, six of them were MidAtlantic (3) or Southwest (3) metros. The strongest metro in the second quarter was Tampa, FL, although recent month-over-month data suggests that the market there may be softening.

ABOUT THE HOMEGENIUS HPI

homegenius Real Estate LLC, a subsidiary of Radian Group Inc., provides national and regional indices for download at homegenius.com/hpi, along with information on how to access the full library of indices.

Additional content on the housing market can also be found on the homegenius and Radian News and Insights pages.

homegenius offers the HPI data set along with a client access portal for content visualization and data extraction. The engine behind the homegenius HPI has created more than 100,000 unique data series, which are updated on a monthly basis.

The homegenius HPI Portal is a self-service data and visualization platform that contains a library of thousands of high-value indices based on both geographic dimensions as well as by market, or property attributes. The platform provides monthly updated access to nine different geographic dimensions, from the national level down to zip codes. In addition, the homegenius HPI provides unique insights into market changes, conditions and strength across multiple property attributes, including bedroom count and livable square footage. To help enhance customers’ understanding of granular real estate markets, the library is expanded regularly to include more insightful indices.

homegenius Inc., a subsidiary of Radian Group Inc. (NYSE: RDN), and its family of companies combine an array of title, real estate and technology products and services into a full-service ecosystem. homegenius offers innovative experiences from search to close, enabling mortgage lenders, mortgage and real estate investors, consumers, GSEs, and real estate brokers and agents to benefit from integrated and personalized solutions leveraging advanced technology and the latest advancements in data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. geniusprice is provided by homegenius Real Estate LLC, doing business as Red Bell Real Estate, LLC in some states where name change approvals are pending. For additional information on the homegenius family of companies, please visit homegenius.com.

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Europe steps up support for Ukraine as Russia presses offensive

  • Ukraine EU candidacy signals major shift in European geopolitics
  • ‘Europe can create a new history of freedom’ Zelenskiy says
  • Battle for Sievierodonetsk grinds on
  • Ukraine claims strike on Russian tugboat

BRUSSELS/KYIV, Ukraine, June 17 (Reuters) – The European Union gave its blessing on Friday for Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova to become candidates to join, in the most dramatic geopolitical shift to result from Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia – smaller ex-Soviet states also contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.

“Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards,” the EU’s executive Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels. She made the announcement wearing Ukrainian colours, a yellow blazer over a blue shirt.

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President Voloymyr Zelenskiy thanked von der Leyen and EU member states on Twitter for a decision he called “the first step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our victory closer”.

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu hailed a “strong signal of support for Moldova & our citizens!” and said she counted on the support of EU member states.

“We’re committed to working hard,” she said on Twitter.

While recommending candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, the Commission held off for Georgia, which it said must meet more conditions first.

Von der Leyen said Georgia has a strong application but had to come together politically. A senior diplomat close to the process cited setbacks in reforms there.

Leaders of EU countries are expected to endorse the decision at a summit next week. The leaders of the three biggest – Germany, France and Italy – had signalled their solidarity on Thursday by visiting Kyiv, along with the president of Romania.

“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” Germany’s Olaf Scholz said after meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Ukraine and Moldova will still face a lengthy process to achieve the standards required for membership, and there are other candidates in the waiting room. Nor is membership guaranteed – talks have been stalled for years with Turkey, officially a candidate since 1999.

But launching the candidacy process, a move that would have seemed unthinkable just months ago, amounts to a shift on par with the decision in the 1990s to welcome the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe.

“Precisely because of the bravery of the Ukrainians, Europe can create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

If admitted, Ukraine would be the EU’s largest country by area and its fifth most populous. All three hopefuls are far poorer than any existing EU members, with per capita output around half that of the poorest, Bulgaria.

All have recent histories of volatile politics, domestic unrest, entrenched organised crime, and unresolved conflicts with Russian-backed separatists proclaiming sovereignty over territory protected by Moscow’s troops.

PORT BLOCKADE

President Vladimir Putin ordered his “special military operation” officially to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. One of his main objectives was to halt the expansion of Western institutions which he called a threat to Russia.

But the war, which has killed thousands of people, destroyed whole cities and set millions to flight, has had the opposite effect. Finland and Sweden have applied to join the NATO military alliance, and the EU has opened its arms to the east.

Within Ukraine, Russian forces were defeated in an attempt to storm the capital in March, but have since refocused on seizing more territory in the east.

The nearly four-month-old war has entered a punishing attritional phase, with Russian forces relying on their massive advantage in artillery firepower to blast their way into Ukrainian cities.

Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out in Sievierodonetsk, site of the worst fighting of recent weeks, on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets river. It was impossible to evacuate more than 500 civilians who are trapped inside a chemical plant, the regional governor said.

In the surrounding Donbas region, which Moscow claims on behalf of its separatist proxies, Ukrainian forces are mainly defending the river’s opposite bank.

Near the frontline in the ruins of the small city of Marinka, Ukrainian police made their way into a cellar searching for anyone who wanted help to evacuate. A group of mainly elderly residents huddled on mattresses in candlelight.

“There’s space down here, you could join us,” joked one man as the officers came in. A woman named Nina sighed in the darkness: “There is nowhere. Nowhere. Nowhere to go. All the houses have been burnt out. Where can we go?”

In the south, Ukraine has mounted a counter-offensive, claiming to have made inroads into the biggest swath still held by Russia of the territory it seized in the invasion. There have been few reports from the frontline to confirm the situation in that area.

Ukraine claimed its forces had struck a Russian tugboat bringing soldiers, weapons and ammunition to Russian-occupied Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost.

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Additional reporting by Abdelaziz Boumzar in Marinka and Reuters bureaux; Writing by Peter Graff, Editing by Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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What Happened on Day 106 of the War in Ukraine

LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine — Just to move about town, Ukrainian soldiers accelerate to breakneck speeds in their SUVs, screech around corners, zip into courtyards, then pile out and run for cover.

“They see us and they open fire,” Colonel Yuriy Vashchuk said of the need to move quickly or become a vulnerable target for Russian artillery. “There’s no place in this town that is safe.”

He was careering around on the high ground of Lysychansk, across the river from Sievierodonetsk, the site of the fiercest fighting in Ukraine’s East. To be prepared, he placed a hand grenade in the cup holder between the front seats of his vehicle. A box of pistol ammunition slid back and forth on the dashboard as he drove.

Signs of Ukraine’s tenuous military positions are everywhere: On the hills overlooking Sievierodonetsk, smoke from a dozen or so fires testify to weeks of seesaw urban combat. The single supply route to the west is littered with burned vehicles, hit by Russian artillery.

The clanging, metallic explosions of incoming shells ring out every few minutes.

These two cities, separated by the Seversky Donets River, have become the focal point of the battle in the East, though weeks of bombardment have driven away most civilians, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine recently referred to them as “dead cities.’’

Russia’s goal is clear: It aims to capture the cities, even if that means flattening them, and continue its march westward.

Yet Ukraine’s strategy there remains unclear. Analysts say Sievierodonetsk, with its empty streets and hollowed-out buildings, is of limited military significance, and in recent days, Mr. Zelensky has spoken both of the merits of pulling back and the longer-term risks of doing so.

On Wednesday night, he swung back toward emphasizing its importance, framing the fighting here as pivotal to the broader battle for the region. “In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there,” he said in his nightly speech to the nation.

“We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy,” Mr. Zelensky said. “This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war.”

Still, the government’s mixed signals emerged again on Thursday when Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, made a desperate plea for more powerful weapons. “We have proved that, unlike many others, we do not fear the Kremlin,’’ he said. “But as a country we cannot afford to be losing our best sons and daughters.”

He warned that as many as 100 Ukrainian soldiers were being killed every day.

Indeed, the fighting on the plains in eastern Ukraine has become a race between Russia’s tactic of making slow, methodical advances that gain ground even as they reduce towns to rubble and kill untold numbers, and the delivery — far too slow, Ukrainians say — of powerful Western weapons needed to halt the invaders.

The Ukrainian military and government are now making no secret of the challenges they face in the East, three and a half months after Russia invaded. Their daily updates that highlight real setbacks are atypically honest by the standards of military press offices, a tactic perhaps intended to add a sense of urgency to their daily calls for heavy Western weaponry

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Russia has also been moving swiftly to punish Ukrainian soldiers captured on the battlefield.

On Thursday, two Britons and a Moroccan who fought for the Ukrainian military were sentenced to death by a court in a Russian-occupied region of eastern Ukraine, after they were accused of being mercenaries, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

The death sentences for the men — Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, of Britain and Brahim Saadoun of Morocco — alarmed human rights advocates and raised questions about the protections for thousands of foreign-born fighters serving in Ukraine, some of whom have been taken prisoner.

In Russia, investigators said on Thursday that they had opened 1,100 cases of potential “crimes against peace” committed by captured Ukrainian service members, possibly paving the way for a mass show trial.

The fighting in Sievierodonetsk has come down to bloody, block-by-block combat, though a senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, suggested Thursday that Russia may have partially withdrawn to clear the battlefield for further artillery bombardments.

Sievierodonetsk lies on the mostly flat, eastern bank of the river and the Ukrainian forces’ sole supply line is a partially obstructed bridge. Two other bridges were blown up earlier in the fighting. On the river floodplain below one of the ruined bridges lies the upside-down wreck of a truck that plunged when the span was destroyed.

Seversky

Donets R.

Sievierodonetsk

Lysychansk

Sea of

Azov

On the high, western bank is the city of Lysychansk. The two cities form a single metropolitan area, separated only by the river. Lysychansk, on the high bank, is seen as a more defensible fallback position for the Ukrainians fighting in this area.

In Lysychansk, asphalt chunks, sheared-off tree branches and other debris from shelling litter the city’s streets, which were otherwise mostly empty on a visit this week. Broken power lines droop from poles. At one spot, an unexploded Russian rocket juts out of a sidewalk.

Across the river, the streets in Sievierodonetsk were at moments eerily quiet, at other times a cacophony of gunshots and explosions.

Rapid fire from the large-caliber guns on armored personnel carriers, sounding like a jackhammer at work, echoed around the area.

A few miles to the west, another battle is raging across a pastoral landscape of rolling steppe and small villages, as Russian forces try to cut supply lines, surround the two cities and trap the Ukrainian fighters there. The two armies continually fire artillery at each other, with the Russians getting the upper hand for now.

A maze of rural back roads is now the only route in for the Ukrainians, and it is vulnerable to Russian artillery. In a field a few hundred yards off a road on Wednesday, a Ukrainian military vehicle burned and sent up a plume of black smoke.

“They are trying to make a circle, to trap all soldiers inside and destroy them,” said Mariana Bezugla, the deputy head of the Security, Defense and Intelligence Committee in Ukraine’s Parliament.

The military does not disclose troop numbers, but Ms. Bezugla said several thousand Ukrainian soldiers are now deployed in the area at risk of being surrounded.

Ms. Bezugla wears a military uniform and gold-tinted aviator glasses while driving about in a van once used as an armored vehicle for a bank. She has been living in the potential encirclement zone for the past two weeks, she said, working to ensure that military aid to Ukraine is not misused. That issue is likely to rise in importance as billions of dollars in Western aid arrives.

That weaponry is flowing in, but not reaching the front quickly. Poland has promised tanks and armored vehicles, according to the Polish government. Norway has sent self-propelled howitzers, along with spare parts and ammunition. The United States and allies sent towed howitzers. And earlier this month, the United States and Britain promised advanced, mobile, multi-rocket launchers, what the Ukrainian military has said it needs to hit Russian targets far from the front.

But it’s unclear how much of it has arrived in the places it is most needed, and whether it will be enough.

“I cannot say that I am satisfied with the tempo and quantity of weapon supplies. Absolutely not,” said Mr. Reznikov, the minister of defense. “But at the same time, I am extremely ​grateful to the countries that support us.”

Ms. Bezugla said she was also thankful. “But for me, it’s hard to understand why help is given in doses, just enough to survive but not enough to win,” she said. “It worries me. Our people are dying every day here.”

Out in a field of green wheat shoots, one sign of the need for additional American military aid was the blown-up debris of earlier assistance. An American M777 howitzer had lost an artillery duel; it was blasted into several blackened, charred pieces amid craters from Russian artillery.

Reporting was contributed by Oleksandr Chubko from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Marc Santora from Warsaw, Michael Levenson from New York, Dan Bilefsky from Montreal, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia and Valerie Hopkins from Chernihiv, Ukraine.

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Struggling in Ukraine’s East, Russian Forces Strike in Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces pressed hard on Sunday to take the town of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last obstacles to seizing the region of Luhansk. But as so often in this grinding war of attrition, the Russian Army is finding the going difficult, with Ukrainian forces making counterattacks and seizing back some of the town.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who said he visited frontline troops near Sievierodonetsk on Sunday, said that fighting was being waged street by street and that the situation was “extremely difficult.” The city is largely in ruins, and thousands of civilians are still sheltering in basements there.

Capturing Sievierodonetsk would deliver the Luhansk region to Russian forces and their local separatist allies, who also control much of neighboring Donetsk. But their inability to take ground quickly and their persistent vulnerability to determined Ukrainian fighters again show that the Russian war plan has not gone according to Moscow’s expectations.

Even as it struggled in the east, Moscow offered a reminder Sunday that it retains the power to lash out in much of Ukraine, hitting Kyiv, the capital, for the first time in more than a month. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, angered by the impending arrival in Ukraine of long-range missiles from the West, warned that Moscow may hit hitherto unscathed targets.

he threatened “to strike targets we haven’t hit before” if Western countries supply Ukraine with longer-range missiles, but he provided no specifics.

Speaking to the state-run Rossiya TV network, Mr. Putin was asked about the U.S. announcement that it would supply Ukraine with a more sophisticated rocket system that could strike targets some 40 miles away. Even as he warned about new Russian targets, he sought to play down the rocket deliveries, suggesting that Western nations were just replenishing stocks of similar weapons that Ukraine had depleted.

Russia has been irritated by the U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with HIMARS truck-mounted multiple-launch rocket systems, with missiles that have a range of up to 40 miles, greater than anything Ukraine currently possesses. Since the invasion, the Pentagon has provided Ukraine with 108 M777 howitzers. But the range of the HIMARS missiles is more than twice that of the 155-mm shells fired by howitzers.

five missiles hit near the Darnytsia railway station and Pozniaky, a residential neighborhood, wounding one person.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that the missiles had struck a railway repair workshop and destroyed an unspecified number of Soviet-era T-72 tanks delivered by Eastern European nations. Poland and the Czech Republic have sent hundreds of such tanks to Ukraine. Ukrainian officials denied that any tanks had been destroyed.

several powerful explosions early Sunday in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, rattling windows miles away. Kramatorsk, which serves as the provincial capital for Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, has been repeatedly struck by missiles but has escaped the sweeping destruction in other towns. There were no reports of injuries in Sunday’s attack, which hit industrial areas.

in a Twitter message that talk of humiliation was not the point. The real question, he said, is: “How to defeat Russia while offering it a way out? To avoid an everlasting war, the temptation of escalation and the total devastation of Ukraine.”

Tone matters, Mr. Araud wrote in English.

“The word ‘humiliate’ is giving to the debate an emotional and moral tone which is a dead end,” he said. “In foreign policy, at the end of a war, there are a winner and a loser or, which is much likelier in this case, there is a stalemate. A stalemate means an ever-going war or a compromise.”

Helene von Bismarck, a German historian, said that what was most annoying about Mr. Macron’s talk of humiliation “is not just that it sounds callous, after Bucha, but that it is yet another example of discussing the long-term relationship with Russia as if it wasn’t influenced by the short-term development of the war.”

But the strain of the long war was evident even in Estonia, whose prime minister, Kaja Kallas, has been one of the most outspoken voices urging a Russian defeat and Mr. Putin’s isolation.

Ms. Kallas dissolved her coalition government on Saturday, firing seven Centre party ministers from the 15-strong cabinet, including the foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets. The dismissal of the Centre ministers followed weeks of political deadlock, including a vote on an education bill in which Centre voted against the government and with a far-right opposition party.

Ms. Kallas, who is seeking to create a new coalition to avoid early elections, cited the need for unity during this war to explain her actions. She said she hoped that the war “would have opened the eyes of all the parliamentary parties to the importance of a common understanding of the threats for us as a country neighboring Russia.”

Valerie Hopkins reported from Kyiv, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels. Reporting was contributed from Andrew E. Kramer from Kramatorsk, Ukraine; Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul; and Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia.

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How Some States Are Combating Election Misinformation Ahead of Midterms

Ahead of the 2020 elections, Connecticut confronted a bevy of falsehoods about voting that swirled around online. One, widely viewed on Facebook, wrongly said absentee ballots had been sent to dead people. On Twitter, users spread a false post that a tractor-trailer carrying ballots had crashed on Interstate 95, sending thousands of voter slips into the air and across the highway.

Concerned about a similar deluge of unfounded rumors and lies around this year’s midterm elections, the state plans to spend nearly $2 million on marketing to share factual information about voting, and to create its first-ever position for an expert in combating misinformation. With a salary of $150,000, the person is expected to comb fringe sites like 4chan, far-right social networks like Gettr and Rumble, and mainstream social media sites to root out early misinformation narratives about voting before they go viral, and then urge the companies to remove or flag the posts that contain false information.

“We have to have situational awareness by looking into all the incoming threats to the integrity of elections,” said Scott Bates, Connecticut’s deputy secretary of the state. “Misinformation can erode people’s confidence in elections, and we view that as a critical threat to the democratic process.”

Connecticut joins a handful of states preparing to fight an onslaught of rumors and lies about this year’s elections.

ABC/Ipsos poll from January, only 20 percent of respondents said they were “very confident” in the integrity of the election system and 39 percent said they felt “somewhat confident.” Numerous Republican candidates have embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election, campaigning — often successfully — on the untrue claim that it was stolen from him.

Some conservatives and civil rights groups are almost certain to complain that the efforts to limit misinformation could restrict free speech. Florida, led by Republicans, has enacted legislation limiting the kind of social media moderation that sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can do, with supporters saying the sites constrict conservative voices. (A U.S. appeals court recently blocked most aspects of the law.) On the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security recently paused the work of an advisory board on disinformation after a barrage of criticism from conservative lawmakers and free speech advocates that the group could suppress speech.

“State and local governments are well situated to reduce harms from dis- and misinformation by providing timely, accurate and trustworthy information,” said Rachel Goodman, a lawyer at Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan advocacy group. “But in order to maintain that trust, they must make clear that they are not engaging in any kind of censorship or surveillance that would raise constitutional concerns.”

Connecticut and Colorado officials said that the problem of misinformation had only worsened since 2020 and that without a more concerted push to counteract it, even more voters could lose faith in the integrity of elections. They also said they feared for the safety of some election workers.

“We are seeing a threat atmosphere unlike anything this country has seen before,” said Jena Griswold, the secretary of state of Colorado. Ms. Griswold, a Democrat who is up for re-election this fall, has received threats for upholding 2020 election results and refuting Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraudulent voting in the state.

Other secretaries of state, who head the office typically charged with overseeing elections, have received similar pushback. In Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who certified President Biden’s win in the state, has faced fierce criticism laced with false claims about the 2020 election.

In his primary race this year, Mr. Raffensperger batted down misinformation that there were 66,000 underage voters, 2,400 unregistered voters and more than 10,350 dead people who cast ballots in the presidential election. None of the claims are true. He won his primary last week.

Colorado is redeploying a misinformation team that the state created for the 2020 election. The team is composed of three election security experts who monitor the internet for misinformation and then report it to federal law enforcement.

Ms. Griswold will oversee the team, called the Rapid Response Election Security Cyber Unit. It looks only for election-related misinformation on issues like absentee voting, polling locations and eligibility, she said.

“Facts still exist, and lies are being used to chip away at our fundamental freedoms,” Ms. Griswold said.

Connecticut officials said the state’s goal was to patrol the internet for election falsehoods. On May 7, the Connecticut Legislature approved $2 million for internet, TV, mail and radio education campaigns on the election process, and to hire an election information security officer.

Officials said they would prefer candidates fluent in both English and Spanish, to address the spread of misinformation in both languages. The officer would track down viral misinformation posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and look for emerging narratives and memes, especially on fringe social media platforms and the dark web.

“We know we can’t boil the ocean, but we have to figure out where the threat is coming from, and before it metastasizes,” Mr. Bates said.

Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.

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Gun in Texas Shooting Came From Company Known for Pushing Boundaries

He has said that his gun company was born out of his poor golf game. Instead of puttering around the course, Mr. Daniel started using an AR-15 — the type of gun he would later go on to make — for target practice. “Every shot he fired filled him with a satisfaction he’d never before experienced,” the company’s website says.

At the time, Mr. Daniel had trouble finding a way to mount a scope onto his rifle. He began designing and selling his own accessory that allowed gun owners to add lights, a range finder and lasers onto the rifle.

He got his break in 2002 at a gun show in Orlando, Fla., where he was approached by a representative of the U.S. Special Forces. He ultimately won a $20 million contract to produce the accessories for combat rifles. More deals followed. In 2008, he won a contract with the British military, according to Daniel Defense’s website.

By 2009, the company had expanded to making guns for consumers. Its military ties were the basis of its marketing, which often featured heavily armed fighters. “Use what they use,” one ad says. Another shows a military-style scope aimed at passing cars on what looks like a regular city street. Others include references — using hashtags and catchphrases — to the “Call of Duty” video game.

Before the 2000s, most gun makers did not market military-style assault weapons to civilians. At the largest industry trade shows, tactical military gear and guns were cordoned off, away from the general public. That started to change around 2004, industry experts say, with the expiration of the federal assault weapon ban.

“Companies like Daniel Defense glorify violence and war in their marketing to consumers,” said Nick Suplina, a senior vice president at Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that supports gun control.

In 2012, the Sandy Hook shooting led to an industrywide surge in gun sales, as firearm enthusiasts stocked up, fearing a government crackdown. In an interview with Forbes, Mr. Daniel said the shooting “drove a lot of sales.” (Forbes reported that Daniel Defense had sales of $73 million in 2016.)

After the shooting, Daniel Defense offered employees extra overtime to meet skyrocketing demand, according to Christopher Powell, who worked for the company at the time. “They kept people focused on the task at hand,” he said.

But in the late 2010s, some colleagues started to worry that Mr. Daniel had become distracted by the glamour of marketing the brand and rubbing shoulders with celebrities and politicians, according to a former Daniel Defense manager. They voiced concerns that some of the marketing materials were inappropriate for a company that manufactures deadly weapons, said the manager and a former executive, who didn’t want their names used because they feared legal or professional repercussions.

Some ads featured children carrying and firing guns. In another, posted on Instagram two days after Christmas last year, a man dressed as Santa Claus and wearing a military helmet is smoking a cigar and holding a Daniel Defense rifle. “After a long weekend, Santa is enjoying MK18 Monday,” the caption states, referring to the gun’s model.

The industry’s aggressive marketing has landed some companies in trouble. Earlier this year, the gun maker Remington reached a $73 million settlement with families of children killed at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn. The families had claimed that Remington improperly marketed its assault rifles, including with its weapons appearing in “Call of Duty,” which the killer at Sandy Hook had frequently played.

A year after Sandy Hook, with the Super Bowl approaching, Daniel Defense deployed a new marketing stunt.

The National Football League had a policy prohibiting ads for weapons on its telecasts. But Daniel Defense tried to buy a 60-second spot that depicted a soldier returning home to his family, with ominous music in the background. “I am responsible for their protection,” the ad’s narrator intones. “And no one has the right to tell me how to defend them.”

Given the N.F.L.’s ban on gun ads, it was no surprise that the ad was rejected. (Daniel Defense claimed that the ad complied with the policy because the company sells products besides guns.) But Mr. Daniel turned the rejection into a rallying cry, and the conservative media lapped it up. Appearing on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” he urged viewers to “call the N.F.L. and say, ‘C’mon, man, run my ad.’”

“That is Marty Daniel at work,” Mr. Powell said. “He’s not one of those typical C.E.O.s that you see.”

Mr. Daniel and his wife, Cindy, have worked hand-in-hand with the National Rifle Association to raise money for the group, sell weapons to its members and beat back calls for gun control.

In recent years, Mr. Daniel and Ms. Daniel, the company’s chief operating officer, became outspoken supporters of Donald J. Trump, contributing $300,000 to a group aligned with Mr. Trump. Mr. Daniel joined the “Second Amendment Coalition,” a group of gun industry heavyweights who advised Mr. Trump on gun policy.

Mr. Daniel told Breitbart News in 2017 that Mr. Trump’s election saved “our Second Amendment rights.” He and his wife have also donated to other Republican candidates and groups, including in their home state of Georgia. So far in the 2022 election cycle, they’ve given more than $70,000 to Republicans.

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Live Updates: Ukrainian Holdouts in Mariupol Surrender to an Uncertain Fate

BUCHA, Ukraine — A breeze rustles through the cherry blossoms in bloom on almost every block in this small city, the white petals fluttering onto streets where new pavement covers damage left by Russian tanks just weeks ago.

Spring has arrived in Bucha in the six weeks since Russian soldiers withdrew from this bedroom community outside Kyiv, leaving behind mass graves of slaughtered citizens, many of them mutilated, as well as broken streets and destroyed buildings.

A semblance of normal life has returned to the city. Residents have been coming back to Bucha over the past few weeks, and the city has raced to repair the physical damage wrought by the invading Russian troops and their weapons. Now, on the leafy springtime streets of the city, it is hard to imagine the horrors that unfolded here.

On a newly paved street with freshly painted white lines, the rotating brushes of a street cleaning machine whisked away what was left of shattered glass and bits of iron shrapnel. In one of the neighborhoods where many of the roughly 400 bodies of Ukrainian citizens were discovered in April, technicians were laying cable to restore internet service. At one house, a resident was removing pieces of destroyed Russian tanks still littering his garden.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Sweeping away as many traces as possible of the destruction caused by the Russian occupation was an important step in healing the wounds suffered by Bucha’s residents, said Taras Shapravsky, a City Council official.

Mr. Shapravsky said 4,000 residents had stayed in the city while it was occupied, terrified and many hiding in basements without enough food. Even after the Russian soldiers withdrew, many residents remained traumatized.

“They were in very bad psychological condition,” he said. “Specialists explained to us that the faster we clear away all possible reminders of the war, the faster we will be able to take people out of this condition.”

Mr. Shapravsky said phone reception was restored a few days after the Russians left, and then water and electricity. He said about 10,000 residents had returned so far — roughly a quarter of the prewar population of this small city 20 miles from Kyiv, the capital.

In a sign of life returning to normal, he said the marriage registration office reopened last week and almost every day, couples are applying for marriage licenses.

Bucha was a city where many people moved to for quieter lifestyles, a place where they could raise families away from the bustle of the capital, to which many commuted to work. It was a place where people from Kyiv might drive to on a nice weekend to have lunch.

Six years ago, Sergo Markaryan and his wife opened the Jam Cafe, where they served Italian food, played old jazz and sold jars of jam. He described the cafe as almost like their child, and he has decorated it with an eclectic mix of hundreds of pictures and strings of photos of customers.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

When Russia invaded, Mr. Markaryan, 38, drove his wife and 3-year-old son to the border with Georgia, where he is from. As a Georgian citizen he could have stayed outside the country, but he came back to Ukraine to volunteer, sending food to the front lines.

Two weeks ago, when the electricity was restored, Mr. Markaryan came back on his own to Bucha to see what was left of the cafe and repair the damage caused by the Russian soldiers.

“They stole the knives and forks,” he said, ticking off missing items. He said the soldiers dragged the dining chairs out to use at checkpoints and stole the sound system. And, he said, despite the working toilets, they had defecated on the floor before leaving.

Two days before it was due to reopen last week, the cafe and its outdoor terrace looked spotless and Mr. Markaryan was taste-testing the espresso to see if it was up to par.

“Many people have already returned but some are still afraid,” Mr. Markaryan said. “But we have all definitely become much stronger than we were. We faced things that we never thought could happen.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On the other side of town, in a row of closed shops with peaked roofs and boarded-up windows, Mr. B — a former cocktail bar run by Borys Tkachenko has been patched up and turned into a coffee bar.

Mr. Tkachenko, 27, came back to Bucha a month ago, repaired the roof, which like most of the buildings on the street appeared to have been damaged by shrapnel, and found that the espresso machine was still there. He reopened to sell coffee — or in the case of customers who were soldiers or medical workers, give it away.

Mr. Tkachenko, who had worked in clubs in Florida and Canada and studied the hotel business in Switzerland, opened the bar with his savings last December. Russia invaded two months later.

He said he knew they had to leave when his 14-month-old daughter started running around their apartment, covering her ears and saying “boom, boom, boom” at the sound of explosions.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Mr. Tkachenko drove his family to the border with Slovakia, where they eventually made their way to Switzerland. He returned to Ukraine to volunteer, helping to send supplies to the front and to displaced civilians.

“We had big plans for this place,” Mr. Tkachenko, who despite everything had a wide smile that matched a tattoo on his arm reading, “Born to be happy,” said of his bar.

He said that when the war ended he would probably join his wife and daughter in Switzerland.

“I don’t see a future here right now,” he said.

While the frenetic activity of city workers and residents has helped clear the city of much of the debris of the Russian occupation, the scars of what happened here run deep.

On one quiet street corner, a bunch of dandelions and lilies of the valley had been laid out on a flowered scarf in a modest sidewalk memorial.

Volodymyr Abramov, 39, said the memorial honored his brother-in-law, Oleh Abramov, who was taken out of his house at gunpoint by Russian soldiers, ordered to kneel and shot. (Oleh Abramov and his wife, Iryna, were the subject of a Times article published this month.)

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“He was not even interrogated,” he said.

Mr. Abramov’s home was destroyed by Russian soldiers who tossed grenades into his house. But he said that was nothing compared with the suffering of his 48-year-old sister, Iryna Abramova, who lost her husband as well as her house.

“I try to help her and take care of her so she doesn’t kill herself,” he said. “I tell her that her husband is watching her from heaven.”

Mr. Abramov, a glazier, said he was now wondering if he should rebuild his house. “I want to run away from here,” he said.

Outside the city’s morgue, where French and Ukrainian investigators are still working to identify bodies from the massacres by Russian troops, a small group of residents gathered, hoping to find out what happened to family members.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Yulia Monastyrska, 29, said she had come to try to get a death certificate for her husband, whose body was among those discovered in April. His hands were bound, he had been shot in the back and the legs, and one of his eyes was burned out, she said.

Ms. Monastyrska said her husband, Ivan, was a crane operator who disappeared while she and her 7-year-old daughter, Oleksandra, hid in the basement of their apartment building.

Oleksandra, wearing glasses and sneakers with princesses on them, leaned against her mother as she listened to details that were clearly now familiar to her.

“As far as I know, everyone wants to come back here, but they are still afraid,” Ms. Monastyrska said. “We were born here, we lived here, a lot of good things happened here.”

Yulia Kozak, 48, accompanied by her daughter Daryna, 23, and Daryna’s 3-year-old son, Yehor, had come to take a DNA test to see if there was a match among the unidentified remains of her missing son, Oleksandr, 29, who had fought in the war against Russia in 2017.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Prosecutors found his military ID, dirty and moldy, in a basement where the Russians held prisoners.

Sobbing, she said the last time she spoke by phone with her son, in March, he had told her he was being shot at. In his apartment, there is a bullet hole in the window, on which the sign of the cross had been etched.

Ms. Kozak, a cook, said she planned to stay in Bucha until she found her son.

“I am sure he is alive, 100 percent sure,” she said. “I feel that he is somewhere, I just don’t know where.”

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

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