July 2022


The Russian economy is on the verge of crumbling as international sanctions begin to take hold, according to a Yale University study released this month.

The analysis, which the authors say is based on consumer, trade and shipping data, shows an economy in danger of collapse as foreign businesses leave and the sanctions continue.

“From our analysis, it becomes clear: business retreats and sanctions are catastrophically crippling the Russian economy,” the authors write.

“As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters into its fifth month, a common narrative has emerged that the unity of the world in standing up to Russia has somehow devolved into a war of economic attrition which is taking its toll on the west,” the study reads, adding, “This is simply untrue.”

The ruble’s surprising performance in the wake of unprecedented economic isolation has been attributed by some analysts to favorable commodities markets in a nation reliant on oil and gas exports.

Others have pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that those commodities be purchased only in rubles, and the central bank’s restrictions against foreign holders of Russian stocks and bonds taking dividend payments out of the country.

Vladimir Putin
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Alexey Maishev, Sputnik/AP

The Yale study argues, however, that Russia now trades its commodities from a position of weakness, and has been forced to pivot from supplying most of Europe to striking sub-par deals in secondary markets.

And the authors claim Putin’s “patently unsustainable” monetary policy has driven the Russian government into deficit.

The study claims that nearly 40% of the Russian Gross Domestic Product has been lost with the retreat of foreign businesses from the Russian economy, “reversing nearly all of three decades’ worth of foreign investment.”

The Yale professors also say that domestic production of goods in Russia has effectively ground to a halt, causing supply shortages and driving up consumer prices.

That’s rocked confidence in the system and driven an exodus of capital and people, the authors write.

“There is no path out of economic oblivion for Russia as long as the allied countries remain unified in maintaining and increasing sanctions pressure against Russia,” the study concludes.

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There’s no poking fun in this pokey!

British prison guards were sent to classes for “banter lessons” to avoid hurting jailbirds’ feelings with good-natured ribbing, according to a report.

Sixteen officers at the Moorland Prison in Doncaster, England attended the workshop to avoid bruising the egos of inmates — after prisoners filed 51 complaints about “offensive language” over the past year, according to the The Sun.

“There are all sorts of initiatives and workshops these days to ensure prison officers don’t breach equality rules — but a banter workshop is a new one on me,” a former prison staffer told the outlet.

He said sensitivity training about someone’s race or disability is fine, but that classes advising guards not to make playful wisecracks is over the top.

Moorland Prison in Doncaster, England
Staff at the Moorland Prison in Doncaster, England attended courses on equality and diversity training and “banter” workshops.

“You can hardly even take the mick out of the football team someone supports,” he said.

At least 49 officers at the 1,000-capacity clink also attended an online workshop that teaches diversity training over the past year, officials said.

“The prison has online equality and diversity training for staff, with 49 staff completing this within the past year,” according to a report from the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board. “During the year, 16 staff attended ‘banter’ workshops.”

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Embattled Ukraine may get the upper hand in its war with Russia in the coming weeks — with Russian advances flagging in the eastern Donbas region and a Ukrainian counteroffensive underway in the nation’s south, western analysts say.

“It does seem the Russians’ ability for forward movement is petering out,” Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, told the Washington Post Friday. “I don’t see them being able to advance much more in the Donbas.”

The assessment matches that of British spymaster Richard Moore, the MI6 chief who predicted last week that Russian forces were “about to run out of steam.”

“Our assessment is that the Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower [and] materiel over the next few weeks,” Moore said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado last Thursday.

Meanwhile, he said “[Ukrainian] morale is still high, and they’re starting to receive increasing amounts of good weaponry.”

Two Ukrainian men firing a large gun in the forest
Ukrainian self-propelled artillery shoots toward Russian forces at a frontline in Kharkiv region, Ukraine.

Since that assessment, Russian forces have taken a large, Soviet-era coal power plant in the northern part of the Donetsk province — one of two eastern states that make up the industrial region known as the Donbas.

But Russian gains have been small, and they’ve scored no major strategic victories since taking Lysychansk — Ukraine’s last holdout in the Luhansk province in the northern Donbas — in the beginning of July.

An analysis Thursday from the Institute for the Study of War, a DC think tank, said that while Russian forces were moving north from the power plant at Vuhlehirska toward the city of Bakhmut, Russian forces were unlikely to have the strength necessary to take the city.

An HIMARS rocket launcher
The HIMARS rocket launcher has been billed by Ukrainian leaders as a “game changer.”
Tony Overman/The Olympian via AP, File

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are quickly fielding new long-range rocket systems, including the US-made and -supplied high mobility artillery rocket system, or HIMARS, enabling them to strike further beyond Russian lines, picking off Russian command centers and ammunition depots.

“We know from the way that the Russians fight that they need someone to tell them what to do,” a senior US defense official told the Washington Post Friday. “And when you are able to kill the people that tell them what to do, you’re able to stop those folks from moving forward.”

The long-range precision strikes enabled by the HIMARS have also allowed the Ukrainians to target another Russian Achilles-heel: supply lines.

Russia failed in its initial attempt to take Kyiv and other northern Ukrainian cities during the opening phase of the invasion in part due to an inability to keep attacking units with fuel, ammunition and supplies.

A car moving past a crater on Kherson's Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro river caused by a Ukrainian rocket strike, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces have targeted bridges, like this one across the Dnipro River, ahead of an expected massive counterassault.
AFP via Getty Images

Seeking to force similar restrictions on Russian forces in the south, the Ukrainian military has been using the HIMARS system to target a key bridge in the Kherson region in an effort to sever Russian resupply efforts, and struck three more bridges over the Dnipro River.

The supply-line strikes come as Ukraine has announced it’s begun a sizable counteroffensive in the south, with the hopes of retaking Kherson, the first city captured by Russian forces at the start of the invasion.

Ukraine said that its air force had successfully struck five Russian strongholds in the Kherson region on Thursday, and Ukrainian ground forces are believed to have liberated several villages along the northern edge of the province.

Ukrainian intelligence has reported that Russian forces are undergoing what Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych called a “massive redeployment” in the south, shifting from an offensive posture to a defensive one ahead of the expected Ukrainian assault, which could define the next stage of the war.

With Post wires

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Nearly 60% of Americans disapprove of President Biden’s job performance, the lowest rating of any modern president and an ominous sign for his fellow Democrats approaching the midterm congressional elections, a new poll reveals.

The Democrat’s approval sunk to a new low of 38% in the latest Gallup survey, released Friday based on surveys done from July 5-26.

A record high 59% of respondents disapproved of Biden’s record in office.

How bad has it gotten for Biden? Gallup says the average approval rate during his first six quarters in the oval office was a historic low of 40% — worse than the 42% recorded by ex-Presidents Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump, who is weighing another bid for the White House after losing re-election to Biden in 2020.

Barack Obama’s approval rating was 47% at the same juncture of his presidency. Bill Clinton had a 46% approval rating and Ronald Reagan — who grappled with a recession early in his presidency had a 44% approval rating.

“Democrats were already facing a tough environment in this fall’s midterms as they seek to retain their narrow majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Biden’s now weaker approval makes their odds of doing so even steeper,” Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones said in an analysis of the findings.

Dems also hope that protesting a lack of action on gun control could help them in November.
Democrats are hoping that Republicans’ actions on abortion could help them maintain their majorities.
James Keivom

Biden’s honeymoon period came to an end when his approval rating dropped to 50% amid a surge in U.S. coronavirus cases last year, the analysis noted.

“Since then, his public support has eroded after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the highest inflation in four decades, record-high gas prices and continuing supply chain issues,” Gallup’s Jones said.

Democrats hope that backlash against the Supreme Court’s recent conservative rulings on abortion, gun control and environmental protection could help neutralize the headwinds they face as the party in power when when Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. 

Equally problematic for the president is that the people who oppose Biden really dislike him while respondents’ support of him is more lukewarm than passionate.

Nearly half of Americans — 45% — strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance, compared with 13% who strongly approve.

Only 31% of registered independents or unaffiliated residents approve of  Biden, a new low for him.

In this partisan era, 87% of Republicans strongly disapprove of Biden — the worst rating for a president registered by voters of the opposition party.

The Gallup poll queried 1,013 Americans from July 5-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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A 7-year-old boy is being praised for his quick thinking after saving the life of a toddler who fell into a swimming pool.

Massiah Browne, of Sacramento, was swimming at his family’s apartment complex when he saw the little boy at the bottom of the pool.

Knowing it was out of the ordinary, the second-grader immediately jumped into action, diving in to save him.

“I was just playing in the pool and then I saw a boy at the bottom of the pool,” he told “Good Morning America.” “And I went to go get him.”

According to Massiah’s mother, Tiara Delvalle, he dove into the 6-foot-deep pool to rescue the 3-year-old, who he said had his mouth and eyes open.

Massiah Browne was swimming at his apartment's pool when he noticed the 3-year-old in the water.
Massiah Browne was swimming in his apartment’s pool when he noticed the 3-year-old in the water.
His parents say they're impressed with his quick thinking that saved the little boy's life.
His parents said they were impressed with his quick thinking that saved the little boy’s life.

The brave boy managed to get the toddler to the pool’s surface where a 9-year-old relative named Savannah — who had been playing at the pool with — pulled him to the deck and alerted adults, who called 911 and started CPR on the child.

“Savannah brought him to his mom and then they did CPR on the boy and then they called the doctor,” Massiah told “GMA.”

A spokesperson from the Sacramento Fire Department confirmed with ABC News that the 3-year-old was breathing by the time first responders arrived.

“The child was transported in critical condition with advanced life support efforts provided by Sacramento firefighters,” the spokesperson told the outlet.

Massiah Browne's mother, Tiara Delvalle, call her son's rescue efforts "a miracle."
Massiah Browne’s mother, Tiara Delvalle, call her son’s rescue efforts “a miracle.”

Delvalle called the rescue a “miracle,” saying she’s is in touch with the mother of the boy, who she reports is doing well.

Massiah’s father, Olympic boxer Marcus Browne, said he was shocked by what his son was capable of, even though his son swims “like a fish” and is “super empathetic.”

“It’s crazy that he’s 7 years old doing things like that,” he said.

“I’m very grateful he was so brave to do something so heroic,” Delvalle agreed.

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Nothing like a mother’s love. Sister Wives star Meri Brown shared a touching tribute to her child Leon Brown for their 27th birthday while gushing over “Leo the Lion.” The reality star included a carousel of pictures on the Friday, July 29, Instagram post, sharing precious moments in their life

In the post, Meri, 51, shared pictures of Leon — whom she shares with spiritual husband Kody Brown — as a newborn to an adorable child with curly blonde hair and a college graduate. The TLC star described Leon, who also goes by Leo after coming out as transgender last month, as a “champion of the underdog” who is the light of her life.

“Knowing my own body, I know this one HAD to be a fighter to even exist! Laughter runs through their veins, strength and inner wisdom abounds,” her caption read. “Forever proud of this kid of mine, forever grateful for their existence. Know you are forever loved by me @leointhemountains and I am honored and blessed to be your mom! I love you!!”

Before ringing in their 27th birthday, Leon shared their life update to fans, revealing that they are transgender and now use the pronouns they/them. Their fiancée, Audrey Kriss, came out as transgender in December 2021 after not wanting to “hide” their true self from the world anymore. 

Sister Wives’ Star Leon Brown, Formerly Mariah, Comes Out As Transgender: ‘I’m Finally Ready to Share My Favorite Self With the World’
Courtesy of Leon Brown/Instagram

“Someone recently told me that I didn’t have to have all of my s–t figured out in order for me to share myself with the world. So, here’s me, definitely not having almost any of my s–t figured out, to let you know that I am trans,” they captioned their announcement at the time. 

Leon, who is Meri and Kody’s only child together, explained that they knew they didn’t feel like a girl at a very young age. However, they continued to identify as a female at the time since they grew up in a “gendered and restrictive” Mormon household. 

“Being queer & trans are definitely some of my favorite parts of myself. And yet, there are so many things that I am learning to love about myself through this process,” they continued. “Here’s to me getting to know myself, share myself, and continually evolve to be the person I am, to be my favorite self in all contexts.”

The Nevada native formerly came out as lesbian to their family during a 2017 episode of Sister Wives, in which Kody, 53, as well as Meri, fully supported their child. “I thought about this years ago, and I made a decision,” he told People at the time. “My job as a dad is to love and respect and not to judge.”

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A woman fell 30 feet to her death while riding a chair lift at a theme park in Tennessee, officials said.

The woman, who appeared to be in her late 20s, was not immediately identified after she was discovered lifeless beneath a chairlift attraction at Anakeesta Theme Park in Gatlinburg, WVLT reported.

Witnesses told the station the woman fell at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday and did not have her safety railing engaged when she plummeted about 30 feet into the 60-foot ride.

Some park-goers also said they were told not to look down while on the ride, WVLT reported.

Jeffrey McConnell said he was at the park with his fiancée and three children when the woman fell about three-quarters of the way up. The ride inexplicably kept going after she fell, McConnell said.

“You could see the concern on everyone’s face that was getting on,” another witness, Jay Duero, told the station.

The ride was last inspected in late April and its latest permit was set to expire on Aug. 4.

Park officials confirmed the woman’s death while saying an investigation was ongoing.

“Our hearts are with the family of the deceased,” Anakeesta officials said. “We cannot disclose further information at this time.”

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will conduct a mechanical inspection of the chair lift, which was closed on Friday, park officials said.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will conduct a mechanical inspection of the chair lift, which was closed on Friday, park officials said.
Google Maps

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will conduct a mechanical inspection of the chair lift, which was closed on Friday, WBIR reported.

The state investigation may take up to eight weeks, officials said.

Some people who said they witnessed the woman fall speculated online that she may have intentionally jumped to her death.

“The lady that fell jumped!” read one Facebook reply to Anakeesta’s note on the ride closure. “Many witnesses. She did not fall on accident. Stop blaming the park.”

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An American educator imprisoned in Russia said he feels “hurt” to be overlooked as the Biden administration works to bring Britney Griner home, arguing that educators “are at least as important” as basketball players.

Marc Hilliard Fogel, 61 — who was arrested last August at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for trying to enter the country with about 20 grams of medical marijuana — worries about his own fate after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed that the US made a “substantial proposal” to bring home Griner and ex-Marine, Paul Whelan.

“That hurt. Teachers are at least as important as bballers,” Fogel wrote in a letter sent to his home in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, of the news reports of the possible exchange for convicted “Merchant of Death” Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Fogel was sentenced by a Russian judge last month to 14 years in prison.

The outlook for any possible exchange to bring Fogel home looks bleak, his wife told the newspaper in her first public comments on the case.

Marc Fogel and his wife, Jane Fogel, are calling on the Biden administration to include him in any potential prisoner swap between the US and Russia.
Marc Fogel and his wife, Jane Fogel, are calling on the Biden administration to include him in any potential prisoner swap between the US and Russia.

“There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Marc will be left behind,” Jane Fogel said. “It’s terrifying. I would hope that President Biden, and especially first lady Jill Biden, who is an educator, realize the importance of including arc in addition to Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.”

A State Department official said the agency is aware of Fogel’s case, but declined to provide additional details while citing privacy concerns, the newspaper reported.

Fogel’s name did not appear on a list of “other” Americans the Biden administration said it was working to free from prisons in Russia and other countries after the president had a call with Griner’s wife.

Fogel is not listed as “wrongfully detained” -- a designation that has been granted to Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, 31, who faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting she had 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage while entering Russia in February.
Fogel is not listed as “wrongfully detained” — a designation that has been granted to Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, 31, who faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting she had 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage while entering Russia in February.

“It seems like the government is working really hard for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” Jane Fogel told the newspaper last week. “We want them to work for us, too.”

Fogel’s niece, Sarah Grubbs, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the 14-year prison term equates to “almost a death sentence” for her uncle, who has battled chronic pain for years and endured multiple back and knee surgeries.

“He wasn’t smuggling marijuana with the intent to distribute it,” Grubbs told the newspaper. “He just wanted to control chronic pain so he can continue doing what he loves.”

Whelan, an ex-Marine, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. Both he and his family have maintained his innocence as the US has denounced the charges as false.
Whelan, an ex-Marine, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. Both he and his family have maintained his innocence as the US has denounced the charges as false.

Fogel was headed to the Anglo-American School in Moscow — where he taught high school history for nearly a decade – when he was arrested. He had plans to retire this year and return to Oakmont, the Post-Gazette reported.

“It is crushing that they wouldn’t try to bring them all home,” one of Fogel’s former students told the newspaper. “Now we are negotiating for hostages, so why selectively? What is it about adding Marc to that list that is prohibitive?”

Fogel is not listed as “wrongfully detained” — a designation that has been granted to Whelan and Griner, 31, who faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting she had 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage while entering Russia in February.

Griner testified Wednesday she was unaware of how the vape cartridges got into her bag and had a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to alleviate pain. It’s unclear how long the two-time gold medalist’s trial will last, but a court has authorized her detention until Dec. 20.

Whelan, an ex-Marine, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. Both he and his family have maintained his innocence as Washington has denounced the charges as false.

Asked about Fogel’s case Friday and why Washington hasn’t publicly pushed for his release like Griner and Whelan, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre cited “privacy issues” while saying she could not divulge more.

“But again, I just reiterate what we have said with wrongfully detained and US nationals that have been — that have been held hostage, we are going to do everything that we can to be able to get them home,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.

With Post wires

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The Mega Millions estimated jackpot has soared to $1.28 billion, making it the nation’s third-largest lottery prize. Here is a look at the 10 largest U.S. jackpots that have been won and the states where the winning tickets were sold:

1. $1.586 billion, Powerball, Jan. 13, 2016 (three tickets, from California, Florida, Tennessee)

2. $1.537 billion, Mega Millions, Oct. 23, 2018 (one ticket, from South Carolina)

3. $1.05 billion, Mega Millions, Jan. 22, 2021 (one ticket, from Michigan)

4. $768.4 million, Powerball, March 27, 2019 (one ticket, from Wisconsin)

5. $758.7 million, Powerball, Aug. 23, 2017 (one ticket, from Massachusetts)

6. $731.1 million, Powerball, Jan. 20, 2021 (one ticket, from Maryland)

7. $699.8 million, Powerball, Oct. 4, 2021 (one ticket, from California)

8. $687.8 million, Powerball, Oct. 27, 2018 (two tickets, from Iowa and New York)

9. $656 million, Mega Millions, March 30, 2012 (three tickets, from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland)

10. $648 million, Mega Millions, Dec. 17, 2013 (two tickets, from California and Georgia)

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She’s growing up fast! Teen Mom 2 alum Chelsea DeBoer (née Houska) has welcomed three children with husband Cole DeBoer — but before she built a family with her man, she had daughter Aubree Lind with her ex-boyfriend, Adam Lind.

Chelsea and Adam welcomed Aubree in September 2009 while the MTV alum was living in North Dakota near her former flame, whom she met in high school. The proud mother was incredibly dedicated to her daughter but felt that Adam’s interest in their child was fleeting. The pair split in season 2 of 16 and Pregnant. In 2014, Chelsea began dating her now-husband, Cole.

Aubree has a great relationship with the traffic control specialist and legally took his last name in 2018. In September 2020, Cole revealed he was eager to adopt his wife’s first child. “I have no idea how you are already 11, but it has truly been a joy watching you grow up into the beautiful, kind and amazing young lady you are today,” he wrote to the preteen in honor of her birthday. “I love you and will forever be here for you.”

In the comments section, one fan wrote, “You have always shown up for her, Cole! It is admirable to watch you raise her and treat her like she is your own! I hope one day you are able to adopt her!” Cole replied, “I have my pen ready!” and included a smiley face emoji.

Two months later in November 2020, Chelsea and Cole revealed they would be leaving the show that made them household names. Later, the reality star told E! News that Aubree’s privacy was a major part of her decision to move on from Teen Mom 2. “There were conversations that Aubree and I were having from time to time,” she told the outlet. “There came a point where I was just worried because I don’t want her to ever be [feeling] like she can’t tell me things because it’s going to be aired to millions of people or whatever.”

On September 7, 2021, the happy family celebrated Aubree’s 12th birthday together.

Scroll through the gallery below to see Chelsea’s daughter Aubree’s transformation over the years!

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