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After Train Derailment, Ohio Governor Mike Dewine Says “I’m Not Seeing” Any Problems

Well, there are more than a few.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As thousands of residents of East Palestine, Ohio, struggle to find safe accommodation and tend to their alarming symptoms in the aftermath of a disastrous train derailment, Republican Governor Mike DeWine assured the public on Tuesday that he is “not seeing” any problems.

DeWine said this in response to a question on whether he was satisfied with the Biden administration’s response. DeWine contrasted himself from do-nothing Senator J.D. Vance, who complained (rightly) about the lack of a federal response; the Ohio governor said while he has spoken with President Biden, who offered assistance, he felt that no further assistance was needed.

While Vance and other Republicans might rightfully question the government’s inaction, they too have seldom done anything worth calling home about. Vance complained about the country being ruled by “unserious people who are worried about fake problems instead of the real fact that our country is falling apart.” Just hours before the train derailed, Vance posted a photo on Twitter of him aiming a gun at the sky, in reference to shooting down the Chinese spy balloon floating above the United States last week.

All this to say, most of Congress and the entire Biden administration is at fault here. Only a select, largely progressive group of lawmakers stuck by rail workers last year as they vied for reasonable work conditions and warned of disasters like this one occurring; the rest of Congress, including the president, imposed an inadequate contract on rail workers nationwide.

Meanwhile, rail companies have enjoyed continuing to chase profit with no abandon. They’ve been free to practice precision scheduled railroading, or PSR, which has led to smaller crews and bigger trains, and therefore greater strain on workers and greater risk for disaster. The Trump administration overturned an Obama-era rule that would’ve brought industry-wide improvement to the braking system—something that failed in East Palestine’s derailment. The Biden administration and Pete Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation have failed to revive it.

Though DeWine may just be contrasting himself from hacks like Vance, he must understand that there are, indeed, problems. Thousands of people are paranoid and scared, as they’ve been left to guide each other through confusing and inconsistent compensatory processes led by Norfolk Southern, the same company that brought them to such calamity. People are sick, their animals are dying, and misinformation about the incident is running rampant. DeWine and other officials should embrace what we’ve come to see yet again is true: The government must do much more to protect the dignity and welfare of its people.

Senator Dianne Feinstein Will Not Run for Reelection in 2024

The 89-year-old senator from California announced she will not run again in 2024, opening up the race to a field of potential Democratic candidates.

Senator Dianne Feinstein walks down a hallway, papers in hand.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Dianne Feinstein, California’s longest-serving senator, is retiring. The 89-year-old congressional veteran will serve the remainder of her term.

“I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends,” Feinstein said in a statement on Tuesday.

Curiously, it’s not actually clear whether Feinstein was aware the statement was released, or she just forgot it was happening. Reporter Matt Laslo asked Feinstein about the retirement, and she seemed to have forgotten, or, in a generous interpretation, misspoke:

Having served in the Senate for 30 years, Feinstein was the first female Jewish senator elected to Congress and then joined Barbara Boxer, also Jewish, in being the first female senatorial duo to represent a state at the same time.

At her best, Feinstein authored the 1994 federal assault weapons ban and chaired the Senate committee tasked with investigating and releasing a report on the CIA’s tortuous interrogation practices. At her worst, she could be seen chiding young children advocating for the Green New Deal, condescendingly complaining about them asking her to deliver a livable future. “You didn’t vote for me,” she said.

While Feinstein had filed early Federal Election Commission paperwork indicating she would indeed seek reelection in 2024, any momentum seemed to stall. In the past year, lawmakers and staffers alike have expressed concerns about the oldest sitting U.S. senator’s mental capacities and whether she could continue serving.

Amid the speculation surrounding the California senator’s future plans, other younger and well-known Democrats were raring to show their eagerness to vie for Feinstein’s seat. Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter have already announced their candidacies; Representative Barbara Lee has said she will be running for Senate as well. Representative Ro Khanna has also indicated an interest in the seat, though he has said he would take Lee’s intentions into account.

This post has been updated.

There Are So Many School Shootings in America That Students Now Live Through Multiple Ones

Multiple students who survived the Michigan State University shooting also survived the shootings at Sandy Hook and Oxford High.

A group of three four students stands outside at night. Two of them are on the phone and look afraid.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Michigan State University students react during an active shooter situation on campus on February 13.

As students sheltered in place during the shooting at Michigan State University Monday night, the experience was doubly traumatizing for many, as they had lived through such a nightmare before.

The tragedy at MSU, which left three dead and five wounded in critical condition, is the sixty-seventh mass shooting this year. There have been more mass shootings than there have been days in 2023.

Horrifically, school shootings seem to have become the norm in the United States. The MSU attack was Michigan’s second school shooting in about a year, coming 14 months after a student opened fire at Oxford High School in Michigan (four dead, seven wounded). It came on the fifth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting in Florida (17 dead, 17 wounded) and a little more than 10 years after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut (26 dead, two wounded). Graduates of all three schools now attend MSU.

In a video that quickly went viral, one Sandy Hook survivor slammed the MSU shooting.

@jmattttt Enough is Enough. #spartanstrong #sandyhookstrong ♬ original sound - Jmattttt

“The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through is incomprehensible,” the 21-year-old, who uses the handle Jmattttt, said in the TikTok. “We can no longer just provide love and prayers. It needs to be legislation, it needs to be action. It’s not OK.”

One Oxford alum was across the street from where the shooting began and immediately called her mother. “She said that she had PTSD. She said she can’t believe this is happening again,” her mom told the Detroit Free Press, who asked that the student’s name not be used.

“She said, ‘Mom I just want to come home, I want to hold you.’”

The mother of another Oxford graduate, whose name was also withheld, told the Local 4 station that it was “like reliving Oxford all over again.”

The woman said that instinct kicked in for her daughter and for herself. “It’s really, really surreal to have to worry about this, and to know exactly what to do,” she said.

Three MSU freshmen had lived in Rochester, Michigan, a few towns over from Oxford, and vividly remembered the shooting there.

“I don’t feel safe anymore at MSU … and now we have to spend the next three years here,” one told local reporter Rachel Louise Just.

The Michigan state government has repeatedly called for gun control, and House Majority Whip Ranjeev Puri was livid Tuesday as he highlighted the fact that such mass shootings only happen in the U.S.

“Fuck your thoughts and prayers,” he said in a statement. “We do not need to live like this.”

Nikki Haley (Finally) Admits She’s Running for President

The former South Carolina governor has balanced a careful line of keeping warm relations with Trump while distancing herself when she had to. Now what?

Nikki Haley speaks at a podium

Nikki Haley is running for president.

After much speculation of will-she-won’t-she spanning as far back as when she was floated as a potential vice presidential pick in 2012, the former South Carolina governor now joins the field against the same man who appointed her as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Haley, like many Republicans, has carefully trodden the line between maintaining warm relations with former President Donald Trump while also trying to distance herself from the twice-impeached leader whenever she felt compelled to. But in her video announcement on Tuesday, Haley called for “a new generation of leadership,” seemingly a slight dig at Trump.

Haley also pointed out in her ad that “Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections,” saying that has to change (perhaps an admission that it’s bad, and maybe invalidating, for a party to lose the popular vote).

Haley’s balancing act thus far has been pretty pathetic to watch, as has her journey to choosing to run in 2024.

After resigning as Trump’s U.N. ambassador in 2018, she moved back to South Carolina and published a memoir the following year, slowly building up funds through speaking engagements. In 2021, Haley had said she wouldn’t challenge Trump if he ran.

“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” Haley told the Associated Press. “That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point, if that decision is something that has to be made.”

And a conversation they did indeed seemingly have. Trump apparently blessed Haley’s candidacy. He recently told reporters that Haley called him in January to tell him she was considering jumping in and that he told her she “should do it.”

Though she seemingly calls for change in her announcement ad, Haley has long had the impulse to pacify Trump and has refrained from directly criticizing him the last few years. This, even while she’s running against him, says all you need to know about most of the people who have expressed interest in running against Trump: They simply don’t have the juice. Tim Scott, another South Carolina Republican rumored to be toying with a run supported by numerous members of Congress, has previously said he would support Trump in a 2024 bid (he said this after January 6, 2021), and then a year later implied he’d be happy to be Trump’s running mate.

And if Haley, or Republicans generally, plan to recoup the popular vote, they have a tall task ahead of them. Trump lost to Biden by over seven million votes in 2020. And Republicans’ unpopular agenda that focuses more on whipping up imagined culture wars and taking away the right to abortion has not paid off since, given the party’s relatively poor performance in 2022.

Haley and any other Republican of color who chooses to run will also deal not only with the Trump-elephant in the room but also navigating how they manage their own identity. In her ad, Haley described herself as “the proud daughter of Indian immigrants.” But she registered herself as “white” on her 2001 voter registration card. She has also previously invoked her Indian roots as she backed Trump’s 2020 bid, claiming “America is not a racist country,” in the same breath that she recounted discrimination her family faced upon immigrating to America.

Some of this racial navigation has also come in the form of Haley saying U.S. citizen Senator Raphael Warnock should be deported.

Haley will of course also face a challenge of being a woman of color candidate in general. One 2022 poll showed that, unfortunately, voters of all stripes see the “ideal” president as a man. But among Republicans in particular, 50 percent said the ideal president would be male while just 2 percent said she would be female.

While Haley navigates not trying to step on Trump’s toes and trying to appease the racist factions in her party, she assured in her ad that, in this ring, she has her gloves on. “You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies,” she said. “And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”

The Michigan State University Shooting Is the 67th Mass Shooting This Year

There have been more mass shootings than there have been days in 2023.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Michigan State University students hug during an active shooter situation on campus on February 13.

The tragic shooting at Michigan State University is the sixty-seventh mass shooting in the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

A gunman opened fire on the campus in East Lansing, Michigan, on Monday night, killing three people and wounding five, who are hospitalized in critical condition.

There have been more mass shootings than there have been days in 2023.

Campus police said the suspect, a 43-year-old man, was not affiliated with MSU as a student or employee, and they do not yet know why he targeted the school. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Monday night.

“This truly has been a nightmare that we are living tonight,” MSU Police Interim Deputy Chief Chris Rozman told a press conference.

“We have no idea why he came to campus to do this,” Rozman said at a separate press briefing. “We have absolutely no information about what the motive was, and I can’t even imagine what the motive may be.”

This is Michigan’s second school shooting in about a year. In November 2021, a 15-year-old student in the town of Oxford opened fire on his high school, killing four classmates and wounding six others and a teacher. He pleaded guilty in October 2022 to 24 criminal charges, including terrorism causing death and first-degree murder. Some of the students who survived the Oxford High shooting experienced that trauma again Monday night.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has repeatedly called for increased gun control, most recently in her State of the State address on January 25.

“The time for only thoughts and prayers is over,” she said during the speech. “And I want to be very clear—I’m not talking about law-abiding citizens.”

“Hunters and responsible gun owners from both sides of the aisle know that we need to get these commonsense gun safety proposals across the finish line.”

She decried the shooting early Tuesday, highlighting the “uniquely American” nature of mass shootings.

But gun regulation is a highly contentious issue in the U.S., where Republican lawmakers repeatedly block attempts to pass gun control legislation. The Supreme Court ruled last year that Americans can carry handguns for self-defense, making it easier to acquire concealed-carry permits nationwide. Meanwhile, a gun manufacturer recently brought back the “JR-15,” a child-size AR-15 rifle.

Life After the Ohio Train Derailment: Trouble Breathing, Dying Animals, and Saying Goodbye

After a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, leaked noxious chemicals, residents in the area are still trying to recover.

Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, in the background. Two people wearing coats stand in the left of the foreground, in a neighborhood.
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4.

On February 3, a devastating 150-car train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, leaked noxious chemicals like carcinogenic vinyl chloride into the surrounding air, soil, and water. Officials say it’s now safe for people to come home. But the harm has not stopped: People in East Palestine and neighboring towns are suffering from respiratory issues, skin reactions, and more, while animals have been found dead. And it’s not clear what support residents have—or who even qualifies for that support.

After the derailment, the Norfolk Southern train had to undergo a “controlled burning” in order to safely release the cargo’s toxic chemicals. Before this was done, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a one-mile evacuation zone surrounding the crash site. Norfolk Southern has been tasked to clean up the mess. After an initial $25,000 donation to the community, the company said they would give $1,000 “inconvenience checks” to residents within the evacuation zone; the company also has offered to reimburse expense receipts for residents within East Palestine.

But residents have reported inconsistencies with the policy, and frustrations with the one-mile qualification bar, as many far beyond that zone had to evacuate and are suffering symptoms. While air tests commissioned by the rail company, and some conducted by the EPA, have thus far deemed chemical amounts to be at safe levels, some experts have warned that impacts could be enduring if and when the chemicals seep into the soil and groundwater. And people feel that neither Norfolk Southern, nor the government, offers clear guidance.

Amanda Greathouse, who resides near the crash site, evacuated about one hour after the incident. She only returned home on February 10, a full week later, to retrieve personal effects like bank and ID cards. Even then, as she and her family walked through the home donning N-95 masks and gloves, an ominous odor pervaded. After leaving, her eyes burned and itched, her throat was sore, and she had a rash; her husband and both her sisters had migraines.

The next day, the family went to Norfolk Southern’s community family assistance center to obtain the $1,000 inconvenience check. After a four-hour wait, Greathouse was informed they needed more documents. The family was forced to return to their home again to retrieve additional documents, and left with renewed symptoms.

Reports of suffering animals, from dogs and cats to fish and chickens, continue to accumulate. Taylor Holzer, an animal caretaker, lost one of his foxes. Others are in poor condition with faces swollen, stomachs upset, and eyes watering. Holzer’s dog, who hadn’t returned home until after the evacuation order was lifted, has begun coughing and gagging. “He will go into coughing fits so hard his front legs bow and he looks so uncomfortable,” Holzer said.

After the derailment, Andrea Belden noticed her two-year-old cat Leo lying motionless, heart racing and breathing labored. He remained that way overnight. Leo was found to have congestive heart failure. Fluid filled around his heart and lungs, and his liver enzymes shot up 690 percent higher than normal levels. Medication wasn’t working. He seldom moved, ate or drank, or went to the bathroom. To continue treatment, Belden would’ve had to come up with up to $18,000. She sought help from Norfolk Southern, with a letter from the vet explaining Leo’s issues likely to be connected to the vinyl chloride. The company said they would not pay for it now, but would possibly entertain it in the future. Belden couldn’t afford to continue the treatment. Norfolk Southern’s delay forced her to make an impossible decision. Leo was put to sleep. Belden still owed $9,678.23 for the treatment Leo received.

Chelsea Simpson, who also lives near the site of the derailment, has suffered from a sore throat while her 8-month-old baby has suffered respiratory issues. Urgent care doctors gave the baby a steroid while Simpson was prescribed an antibiotic. After Simpson visited her home for 10 minutes a few days ago, her eyes were bloodshot and burning.

Simpson was told by the company that she would receive reimbursements for expense receipts, but would not qualify for the $1,000 check despite residing within the one-mile zone and being among those forcibly evacuated. Meanwhile, a cleaning service the rail company has commissioned to serve those residing within the radius still reached out to Simpson—so it remains unclear why the company will not also offer her family the $1,000 check.

While Simpson has been denied compensation duly owed by Norfolk Southern policy, others outside the mile radius deserve just as much care.

On February 6, the day of the controlled burn, Therese Vigliotti, who lives 15 miles north of East Palestine, was having a cigarette and cup of coffee as she noticed a slight odor in the air. During her next smoke break, she noticed her coffee tasted strange. She then realized her tongue felt funny, and her lips and soft palate felt numb. Her throat began to hurt. Throughout the week, her throat continued to hurt and she felt a burning sensation on her tongue. She even found blood in her stool. “I appreciate the hell out of you for reaching out to me [because] I’m honestly really scared,” Vigliotti said. “And please understand I am not losing my wits over the whole thing.”

Many others TNR spoke with, in and outside the one-mile radius, reported similar symptoms: headaches, burning sensations, severe dehydration, and more. But the town’s nearly 5,000 residents are left unsure about who qualifies for what support in the face of these ailments. Left with little guidance from local officials, and increasing reports of health concerns, paranoia and distrust is growing in the community, especially after authorities last week arrested a journalist covering the derailment. People now lean on the internet and mutual support, while feeling as if the government is not helping and instead just referring them to the good will of a corporation.

“It kinda sucks we’re all getting the majority of our information from fellow residents on Facebook,” said resident Liz Smith. “So it’s hard to tell what’s true or not.”

It didn’t have to be this way. Norfolk Southern is among the gargantuan rail companies that have lobbied against a myriad of industry improvements, like updating the same braking system that failed in East Palestine. Rail workers (who just had a rail contract imposed upon them) had already warned about how corporate malfeasance could lead to a disaster like this. A nearly identical crash happened in New Jersey in 2012, when a Norfolk Southern train carrying vinyl chloride derailed. Many community members reported similar symptoms at the time to those in East Palestine; some had symptoms even years later.

“I am concerned that the area has been deemed safe so quickly without extensive data to show the risk has been reduced,” said Dr. Michael Koehler, member of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety. “As long as safety concerns remain, it is hard to understand how they authorized residents to return.”

Though officials report conditions to be safe, an inordinate amount of suffering is taking place. Moreover, the cleanup after the derailment did not guarantee the soil would avoid contamination. A Norfolk Southern spokesperson conceded that “it’s hard to tell what was burned off and what went into the soil.”

In a letter to Norfolk Southern last week, the EPA noted “areas of contaminated soil and free liquids were observed and potentially covered and/or filled during reconstruction of the rail line including portions of the trench/burn pit that was used for the open burn off of vinyl chloride.” The agency noted other toxic chemicals including butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether are also continuing to be released into the air, soil, and water.

So why are people being told it’s safe to return before Norfolk Southern completes the necessary cleaning still left to be done? The controlled burning may have been the best option at the moment; vinyl chloride and other compounds are explosive, so it had to be dealt with carefully. But the cleanup doesn’t stop there, noted Delphine Farmer, chemistry professor at Colorado State University. The burning released numerous other compounds and pollutants, some of which can sneak into people’s homes without air monitors picking up on them in the specific moment they might be checking.

For her part, Greathouse doesn’t feel confident about staying in East Palestine anymore. “As soon as we got in town the first time a train went through [my] chest got tight with anxiety,” she said. “My 4-year-old is scared to be home, and honestly the possible long term health repercussions are not something I’m willing to risk with our toddlers.” It’s a decision she does not take lightly; Greathouse loves her community.

“My 4-year-old goes to the local Head Start in East Palestine. Every single one of his teachers and the family advocate have been in constant contact with us checking on him and our family in general,” she said. “I honestly don’t know how we would be making it through this without their love and support. While the government hasn’t done much, if anything, to assist, and Norfolk Southern is making aid difficult to receive, our community and the Head Start program have pulled together and we will be forever grateful for that.”

The “He Gets Us” Jesus Super Bowl Commercial Is Connected to an Anti-Abortion, Anti-LGBTQ Group

The ad urged viewers to look past their differences. Meanwhile, the group behind it is rolling back nondiscrimination protections.

Screenshot of the Super Bowl Jesus ad; a bunch of young people yelling at each other via megaphones (black and white photo)

During Super Bowl Sunday’s array of ads, one campaign sought not to promote cars or sports betting or a snack food, but Jesus himself.

One ad, exhibiting black-and-white photos of civil rights protests, Covid-19 lockdown demonstrations, and numerous other nondescript confrontations, was marched forward to the tune of “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man. Encounters that flattened everyone (whether protesting against wearing masks in a pandemic or against police brutality) into misguidedly angry individuals were paired with lyrics like “Take a look in the mirror, and what do you see, do you see it clearer, or are you deceived? … Cause I’m only human after all, you’re only human after all.”

The music faded, the screen cut to black. “Jesus loved the people we hate,” the screen read. Cue the music’s powerful return. “He gets us. All of us,” the ad continued, before “us” was then transposed to “Jesus.”

The stirring ad was part of the larger “He Gets Us” campaign bankrolled by the conservative evangelical group Servant Foundation. The ad, urging viewers to look beyond their apparently equally valid differences and instead find solidarity through the church, did not come from a group that even pretends to follow such hollow advice.

As Andrew Perez reported at The Lever, the Servant Foundation donated more than $50 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal organization that helped draft the Mississippi abortion law at the core of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Fresh off that victory, they’re seeking to block the abortion drug mifepristone.

The group is also leading a Supreme Court case that argues businesses should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ+ customers. The organization previously argued in the 2018 Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that involved a baker who refused to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

A 2020 tax return showed that the nearly $1 billion asset-holding Servant Foundation’s top contributions were to the Alliance Defending Freedom, according to Lever.

The “He Gets Us” campaign also received money from donors like Hobby Lobby billionaire co-founder David Green, who sued the government to overturn Obamacare’s contraception mandate for company coverage due to “religious objections.” The court ruled in 2014 that Hobby Lobby could in fact deny contraceptive coverage to its employees. Green’s Hobby Lobby warehouses were also ordered to return thousands of Iraqi artifacts “collected” by the tycoon to adorn the Museum of the Bible, which Green is a primary funder of and tax write-off benefactor of.

“He Gets Us” also ran an ad earlier in the Super Bowl urging viewers to be more childlike, since “Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults.” The Super Bowl ads are part of a larger campaign; another “He Gets Us” ad positions Jesus as an influencer “canceled” by the “establishment.”

Another ad produced by the billionaire-backed organization veers toward poverty porn, reminding us that “Jesus struggled to make ends meet, too.”

White House Rules out Aliens for Flying Objects Shot Down

“There is no, again no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent take-downs.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. government has sadly ruled out aliens as a possible explanation for the multiple flying objects shot down in recent days.

The military has shot down three unidentified flying objects since Friday. The government seems to be on high alert after shooting down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon last week. China said the balloon was for meteorological research, but Washington rejected that explanation.

“There is no, again no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent take-downs,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

When General Glen VanHerck was asked Sunday whether the flying objects had extraterrestrial origins, the head of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command (NORAD) said, “I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven’t ruled out anything.”

“At this point, we continue to assess every threat or potential threat…that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it,” VanHerck said.

But he noted the military was unable to determine how the three latest objects stayed airborne, where they came from, or what exactly they even are, which is why “we’re calling them objects, not balloons.”

The government has not publicly cared this much about aliens since 2019, when the FBI investigated a joke Facebook event to storm Area 51.

We’ve seen a lot of UFOs over the past week, and we’re likely to see more. A U.S. official told The Washington Post that the recent objects have changed how analysts filter and interpret information about incursions into U.S. airspace.

Speaking anonymously, the official explained that the data absorbed by sensory equipment is run through filters, to help analysts determine what is important. But “we basically opened the filters,” the official said, allowing more objects to be deemed noteworthy.

But the official also said that the government still doesn’t know if the increased incursions are due to expanding the data parameters or deliberate actions by an unknown entity.

The government has also said that it was able to discover multiple objects, including surveillance balloons that flew over the U.S. during Donald Trump’s presidency, because Joe Biden increased the amount of intelligence resources directed towards detecting Chinese espionage attempts.

“Because the intelligence community made this a priority at the direction of President Biden, we enhanced our surveillance of our territorial airspace, we enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last week.

While it’s not clear where the most recent three high-altitude objects came from, the additional resources are how the government was able to detect the surveillance balloon from China.

Beijing, meanwhile, has begun pushing back, accusing the U.S. of flying high-altitude balloons through its airspace more than 10 times over the course of last year, which Washington has denied. The original balloon derailed what was supposed to be U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first trip to China to ease tensions between the two countries.
The White House may have dashed our hopes this time, but who knows what might be behind the next high-altitude object that enters U.S. airspace.

This post has been updated.

U.S. Shoots Down Unidentified Object Floating Over Alaska

Just a week after the Chinese spy balloon, the White House has confirmed that a second high-altitude object has been shot down. What exactly the object is or where it comes from remains unclear.

John Kirby speaking at the podium
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby

Just a week after the hullabaloo of the Chinese spy balloon, the United States shot down an object the size of a small car that was floating over Alaska on Friday.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the object, first observed yesterday, “posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight.” Per recommendation from the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to shoot down the object, which was cruising at an altitude of roughly 40,000 feet.

Though the government seemed to act more swiftly than with the Chinese spy balloon, there have been fewer details to come with the act. What the object exactly is, from where it originates, and what purpose it was serving are all unclear.

Kirby did say, however, that Air Force pilots allegedly found the aircraft to not be manned before the final order to shoot it down.

The object follows reports of numerous Chinese spy balloons flying all over the world, including at least once earlier during Biden’s presidency and three times during Trump’s. Unlike the previous balloons, which seemed to be flying at an even higher altitude, its flight path was low enough to potentially threaten civilian aircraft. The object was also much smaller than last week’s balloon, which was reportedly 200 feet tall.

MAGA Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna Claimed Jewish Heritage. Her Family Says That’s Not True.

A new report says the congresswoman doesn’t have Jewish roots and her grandfather served in the Nazi army. She also appears to have embellished other parts of her biography.

Representative Anna Paulina Luna smiles and folds her arms
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Florida Representative Anna Paulina Luna may have fabricated her Jewish heritage, according to a new report by The Washington Post.

The freshman MAGA Republican seems to inhabit a space usually reserved for serial fabulist George Santos. In addition to potentially lying about her religious background, Luna appears to have embellished other parts of her personal history.

Luna is Mexican on her mother’s side and Mexican and German on her father’s side. She has repeatedly said while campaigning and in an interview with Jewish Insider that she has Ashkenazi roots and her father was a Messianic Jew, or a Jewish person who believes Jesus was the Messiah. But several family members told the Post that not only did Luna’s father have no ties to Judaism but his father served in the Nazi army in Germany as a young man.

Messianic Judaism is an offshoot of Protestant Christianity, not Judaism. Jews believe that Jesus was not the Messiah, and most denominations do not recognize Messianic Judaism as actual Judaism. Some of Luna’s family members told the Post that both her father and grandfather were Catholic.

Luna’s claim that she was “raised as a Messianic Jew by her father” directly contradicts another refrain of hers: that her mother raised her alone with “no family to rely on.” Other family members have also said that Luna was always with them and supported by an extended family network growing up.

Luna served in the Air Force from 2009 to 2014, during which time the people who knew her described her as apolitical or even liberal. She expressed support for Barack Obama and said her heritage was Middle Eastern, Jewish, or Eastern European.

In 2015, she registered to vote in Florida and checked her race as “White, not of Hispanic origin.” That same year, she filed a petition in Washington state to change her last name to Luna, her mother’s family name, from Mayerhofer.

She joined the conservative group Turning Point USA in 2018, working for less than a year as their Hispanic engagement director. When she launched her campaign for Congress, she had fully embraced her Hispanic heritage, even changing the pronunciation of her first name to “Ah-na” from “Ann-a,” which surprised some of her friends and family members.

Luna has also talked about experiencing a “home invasion” in 2019, when her landlord broke into her apartment in the middle of the night. She links this to her support for gun ownership.

Her roommate from the time disputes this story, saying their apartment was broken into multiple times during the day, when neither of them was home. Nothing was taken, and they never figured out who did it.

There is one thing Luna has said about herself that definitely appears to be true: “I’m able to take on different personalities depending on what image I am going for,” she told the Canadian magazine Skyn in 2017. “I think getting into [the] character of what you are selling is super important.”