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Archaeologists Discover Lost Egyptian City Said to Rival Pompeii

A new discovery on the west bank of the Nile, near the iconic Valley of the Kings, has archaeologists buzzing about what may be the most important archaeological find since the location of Tutankhamun’s tomb. An entire lost city has been found, with workshops, palaces, a cemetery, and living quarters. The site is said to be in excellent condition.

“There’s no doubt about it; it really is a phenomenal find,” Salima Ikram, an archaeologist who leads the American University in Cairo’s Egyptology unit, told National Geographic. “It’s very much a snapshot in time—an Egyptian version of Pompeii.”

The archaeologists have found multiple artifacts stamped with the seal of Amenhotep III or dated to year 37 of his reign, when Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV are believed to have ruled side-by-side. According to Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the team that found the lost city was actually searching for the mortuary temple of Tutankhamun after locating the mortuary temples of both Horemheb and Ay in the same area.

“The city’s streets are flanked by houses… some of their walls are up to 3 meters high,” Hawass continued. “We can reveal that the city extends to the west, all the way to the famous Deir el-Medina.”

Deir el-Medina is the name of the town where generations of artisans and laborers worked to carve rock tombs out of the Valley of the Kings. Wikipedia notes that Deir el-Medina is “laid out in a small natural amphitheater, within easy walking distance of the Valley of the Kings to the north, funerary temples to the east and south-east, with the Valley of the Queens to the west. The village may have been built apart from the wider population in order to preserve secrecy in view of sensitive nature of the work carried out in the tombs.” If the new city stretches all the way to Deir el-Medina, it means the village of workers may have been less isolated than previously thought.

Some of the decorative objects found at The Rise of Aten. Image by Zahi Hawass

The find is being described as “The lost golden city of Luxor,” but that appellation risks confusion. Luxor is a modern Egyptian city and its present-day boundaries are already known to include the ruins of Thebes, the ancient Egyptian capital. This new lost city, known in ancient times as Rising of the Aten, is inside the borders of modern-day Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile, not far from the Valley of the Kings. While described as a city, it’s not a large location.

Zoomed out view, showing the location of The Rise of Aten within Luxor.

Hawass identifies the site as “sandwiched between Rameses III’s temple at Medinet Habu and Amenhotep III’s temple at Memnon.” Google Maps (above) shows that this specific area isn’t very large, but here’s a zoomed-in view showing the relationship between the new finds and existing structures.

A zoomed-in view, showing the lost city in relationship to other nearby locations and the Valley of the Kings.

Rising of the Aten was built on the west bank of the Nile and occupied during the reign of Amenhotep III, but it was apparently abandoned suddenly during the reign of his son, Amenhotep IV, also known as Akhenaten, father of Tutankhaten / Tutankahmun. The changing titles of both pharaohs hints at the cultural upheaval in Egypt during their reigns.

Ancient Egypt was mostly polytheistic, but not entirely. During the reign of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten, the capital of Egypt moved from Thebes to a new city he founded 250 miles to the north, named Akhetaten, which means “Horizon of the Aten.” At the same time, the nature of Egyptian religion changed.

Prior to the reign of Amenhotep IV, the Aten was the disk of the sun and considered one aspect of the Egyptian sun god Ra. Under Amenhotep IV, Aten became the sole deity Egyptians worshipped and the pharaoh renamed himself as Akhenaten. This was controversial, to put it mildly.

Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhaten, appears to have changed his name to Tutankhamun after his father’s death, possibly to signal allegiance to the old religious orders and to affirm Amun-Ra as leader of the Egyptian pantheon. He took multiple actions to restore the religious orders his father had disfavored, including abandoning Akhetaten and returning the seat of Egyptian power to Thebes. After his death, he was succeeded by Ay, who was possibly his great-uncle.

The Amarna period is known for its artistic experimentation. But Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ay were all associated with what ancient Egyptians viewed as religious heresy. The pharaoh who came after Ay, Horemheb, practiced damnatio memoriae against his predecessors. Damnatio memoriae is Latin for “condemnation of memory” and refers to systemic efforts to exclude mention or depiction of a person from history. The efforts the ancient Egyptians made to keep the later rulers of the 18th Dynasty out of the history books have complicated our efforts to understand their lives today, despite the fact that Tutankhamun’s burial treasure represents the most complete trove of royal ancient Egyptian artifacts ever discovered.

ExtremeTech reached out to professor Kara Cooney, professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA, to better understand the implications of the find.  “This is one of the biggest things to happen to domestic architecture and settlement archaeology in some time,” Cooney said. “The town is beautifully preserved, even past one story, in mudbrick, which shouldn’t survive. What is astounding is all that comes with the town, tools, pottery, texts, as if the town was left suddenly, which is what archaeologists think happened.”

“Mudbrick isn’t preserved like this elsewhere,” Cooney continued. “They [archaeologists] are worried about preserving this site. Once rainstorm will do untold damage. This is a special and amazing find that must be carefully studied and preserved.”

The Rise of Aten could shed new light on a tumultuous period of time in Ancient Egypt when artistic and religious standards were changing. Reports indicate the city has been found “packed” with artifacts and everyday objects, many of which may help us understand the lives of the people that lived there. It is not clear if the site was used when Tutankhamun returned to Thebes. We may find clues to that decision as work on the site progresses.

One other thing we want to mention. There have been claims that the recent Rising of the Aten discovery reported by Zahi Hawass is an inadvertent duplication of French archaeological finds that date back to the 1930s. This appears to be unlikely. A follow-up investigation comparing the French expedition work to the Rising of the Aten site found that they occurred in two different locations, though both date to the reign of Amenhotep III. The two sites may or may not be related, but the claims of a previously-unknown Egyptian Pompeii are holding up thus far.

Every now and then, the discoveries we make in these long-lost places dramatically reshapes what we know of the past. Some of our knowledge of ancient writers and thinkers comes from just one place — a library in Herculaneum, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Rising of the Aten may hold similar secrets, kept safe and untouched for thousands of years.

Feature image by Zahi Hawass

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What provinces and territories have said about their COVID-19 vaccine plans

The federal government is laying plans for the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, inking contracts with seven potential manufacturers and saying six million doses could arrive in the country in the first quarter of 2021.

The most recent development from Ottawa came Friday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national distribution effort.

But various provinces have started spelling out their plans as well. Here’s a look at what they’ve said so far:

Nova Scotia

The province’s chief medical officer of health says he will release a detailed plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once Ottawa shares more information.

Dr. Robert Strang said Friday there is no certainty yet about the availability of a vaccine, but expressed hopes an initial supply will trickle into Nova Scotia early in the new year.


Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Strang said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization.

He said he’s waiting for more federal guidance on issues ranging from priority groups to transportation and storage logistics.

Quebec

The province will be ready to start rolling out its vaccine plan as of Jan. 1, say senior politicians.

Premier François Legault said Thursday that public health officials have already settled on the list of priority vaccine recipients, but did not release details. Legault said the province is also working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to support a vaccine rollout.

That includes obtaining refrigerators capable of maintaining the extremely low temperatures needed by one of the most promising potential vaccine options, currently in development through pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse to oversee the province’s vaccination effort.


Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse, pictured, to oversee the province’s vaccination effort. (Jacques Boissinot / Canadian Press)

Ontario

Premier Doug Ford is among those leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials scramble to develop a provincewide vaccination strategy.

Early speculation on the number of doses the province could receive was put to rest earlier this week when federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works.

But Ford has forged ahead, naming former chief of national defence, retired general Rick Hillier, to oversee the province’s vaccine rollout.

Hillier said on Friday he hopes to have a plan developed by year’s end, while Ford urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery.

“We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments,” Ford said.

WATCH | Ontario prepares vaccine plan as daily case numbers hit record high:

Ontario reported a record-high 1,855 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The head of the province’s vaccine task force says he aims to be ready for vaccine distribution by the end of the year, though the vaccine may not yet have arrived. 5:04

Alberta

The province’s top medical official has said she expects to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw has also said a number of hurdles and unknowns remain as the province works to devise its vaccination scheme.

“These [vaccine] numbers, of course, depend on many factors,” Hinshaw said on Nov. 18.

“They depend on the final pieces of the trials that are underway going well. They depend on ensuring that the safety and the effectiveness of the early vaccines can be assured. All of those checks and balances must be cleared.”

WATCH | Hinshaw speaks about a potential vaccine:

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says although a potential COVID-19 vaccine may be getting closer it is still “a lifetime away” and Albertans need to continue to follow health guidance. 1:50

On Friday, Hinshaw said the province is working with Ottawa to get vaccine, but it is “a bit of a moving target” on when vaccines might be available.

“But our goal is that whenever vaccine is available, we will be ready to start immunizing individuals on that highest priority list.”

British Columbia

Provincial health officials announced on Wednesday that a vaccine strategy for the province is already in the works.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, said Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.

Henry said front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.

She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing.

WATCH | Potential vaccine is ‘fantastic,’ Henry says:

B.C. provincial’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said while she hasn’t seen the data from the Pfizer trial, it’s still good news, if the results hold. 1:40

“It’s very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen.”

Henry said the province hopes to have vaccines in hand by January.

Yukon

Premier Sandy Silver told the legislature on Wednesday that the territory has been in discussions with various levels of government on a vaccine rollout plan.

He said the goal will be to provide vaccines to elderly people and health-care providers.

Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he’s emphasized with federal authorities.


Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he’s emphasized with federal authorities. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

The premier said he has joined the other provincial and territorial leaders in pushing for a national strategy to distribute the vaccine.

“How confusing would it be for 13 different strategies right across the nation?” he said.

Silver said the Pfizer vaccine could cause logistical problems for remote communities because of its cold-storage requirements, but those issues may not apply to other vaccines under development.

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NASA to Sample Asteroid Said to Contain Building Blocks of Life

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been in orbit of the asteroid Bennu since late 2018, and it’s almost time for the main event: collecting a sample from the surface. Researchers have used the last few years to get familiar with Bennu, and that has led to six studies that were just published in the journals Science and Science Advances that describe the environment and composition of the space rock. We know what OSIRIS-REx is likely to scoop up from the asteroid. Yes, rocks, but they’re exciting rocks. 

One study, led by Amy Simon from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, shows that carbon-bearing minerals are widespread on Bennu, including at the Nightingale landing zone where OSIRIS-REx will touch down. Scientists on Earth are already planning experiments on these materials that could help us understand the origin of water and life on Earth. 

Another study focused specifically on carbonate minerals (a salt of carbonic acid), which is visible in veins crisscrossing some boulders. Carbonates are usually produced in systems that have both water and carbon dioxide, leading scientists to conclude that Bennu’s long-destroyed parent body contained water. The size of the carbonate veins suggests the water system was large, on the order of miles. Again, these materials are widespread and may be present in the samples OSIRIS-REx picks up, which has researchers excited. 

Part of the probe’s mission before collecting its sample was to map the surface in detail. This allowed NASA to study the asteroid’s topography and choose a landing location. With data acquisition complete, the agency has created the most detailed map ever of an asteroid with a resolution of 20cm per pixel. The video below takes you on a tour of Bennu created with a combination of photos and laser altimeter data. 

When OSIRIS-REx descends on October 20th, it will tap the surface and use a blast of compressed nitrogen gas to (hopefully) blow regolith into the sample container. Of course, numerous asteroids fall to Earth every day, but they’ve been scorched by their journey through the atmosphere. Sampling Bennu allows scientists to study primordial material from the early solar system. One of the new studies suggests that the material around Nightingale is even better for this purpose than expected. The Nightingale site is “spectrally red” compared to much of the surface. That indicates the material was only recently uncovered and exposed to space, making it super-pristine. 

The samples from OSIRIS-REx should be back on Earth in September 2023. Until then, we’ll have to root for the probe from a few million miles away.

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Hailey Bieber Apologizes to TikTok User Who Said She Was ‘Not Nice’ When They Met

Hailey Bieber Apologizes to TikTok User Who Said She Was ‘Not Nice’ When They Met | Entertainment Tonight

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Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and More Turn Over Their Instagrams to Black Leaders: Here’s What They Said

Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes and More Turn Over Their Instagrams to Black Leaders: Here’s What They Said | Entertainment Tonight

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Anderson Cooper Teams Up With Andy Cohen on ‘Millionaire’: See Why the CNN Host Said He’s ‘In Deep Trouble’

Anderson Cooper Teams Up With Andy Cohen on ‘Millionaire’: See Why the CNN Host Said He’s ‘In Deep Trouble’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Warren, Sanders spar over her claim he said woman can’t win

Elizabeth Warren made a vigorous case for a female president and stood behind her accusation suggesting sexism by progressive rival Bernie Sanders Tuesday night in a tense Democratic debate that raised gender as a key issue in the sprint to Iowa’s presidential caucuses.

Sanders vehemently denied Warren’s accusation, which threatened to split the Democratic Party’s far-left flank — and a longtime liberal alliance — at a critical moment in the 2020 contest.

“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they have lost 10 elections,” Warren exclaimed “The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.”

An incredulous Sanders responded: “Does anybody in their right mind think a woman can’t be elected president?” he asked. “Of course a woman can win.”

He added: “I don’t know that that’s the major issue of the day.”

The drama unfolded just 20 days before Iowa’s kick-off caucuses with four candidates tangled at the top of the shifting field.

WATCH | Sanders responds to Warren over his alleged remarks:

Sen. Bernie Sanders denied at a Democratic presidential debate Tuesday evening in Des Moines, Iowa, he told Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. ‘I didn’t say it.’ On the debate stage, Warren argued the real danger for Democrats ‘is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together.’ 2:55

Longtime allies Warren and Sanders are icons in the party’s left wing. Former Vice President Joe Biden, considered the centrist in the race, has maintained his place as an establishment favourite thanks to relationships with Democratic officials that have spanned decades. And Pete Buttigieg, a virtual unknown a year ago, is trying to carve his own path as a 37-year-old openly gay military veteran from the Midwest.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer joined them on stage.

The race until now has been defined by respectful policy differences and urgent opposition to President Donald Trump’s reelection,. Tuesday night, the simmering feud between Warren and Sanders — literally a “he-said, she-said” clash between the progressive movement’s two biggest stars — sometimes overshadowed criticism of Trump and the left wing’s desire to attack Biden and Buttigieg.

Trump, campaigning in neighbouring Wisconsin just as Democrats took the debate stage, tried to encourage the feud between Sanders and Warren from afar.

“She said that Bernie stated strongly that a woman can’t win. I don’t believe that Bernie said that, I really don’t. It’s not the kind of thing Bernie would say,” Trump said.

Just six candidates gathered in Des Moines, each eager to seize a dose of final-days momentum on national television before Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses. Diversity was a focus even before the prime-time event began.

For the first time, not a single candidate of colour appeared on stage. All six candidates who met the party’s polling and donor thresholds were white, and four were men.

The Democratic field’s eroding diversity comes as the party tries to navigate broader debates over how to reflect and embrace the crucial role women and minority voters will play in 2020. To defeat Trump this fall, Democrat need to ensure black, Latino and suburban voters are excited to vote against the Republican president.

Tuesday’s debate showcased differences between the candidates on a number of issues.

Sanders stepped up his attacks on Biden over the former vice president’s past support of the Iraq War and broad free-trade agreements. Klobuchar, who has had several strong debates, looked for opportunities as she remained mired in the middle of the pack in polling. Billionaire Steyer faced criticism that he’s trying to buy his way to the White House.

With surveys showing Buttigieg losing support in Iowa, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, struggled for attention in a debate that often featured points of conflict among his rivals.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, left, greets Biden, centre, and Sanders ahead of the debate. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

United against Trump

The evening began with the candidates clashing over Iraq, war and foreign policy, although they were largely united against Trump’s leadership on such issues.

Sanders drew a sharp contrast with Biden by noting that Sanders aggressively fought against a 2002 measure to authorize military action against Iraq.

Sanders called the Iraq invasion “the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country.”

“I did everything I could to prevent that war,” Sanders said. “Joe saw it differently.”

Biden acknowledged that his 2002 vote to authorize military action was “a mistake,” but highlighted his role in the Obama administration helping to draw down the U.S. military presence in the region.

Several candidates condemned Trump’s recent move to kill Iran’s top general and his decision to keep U.S. troops in the region.

“We have to get combat troops out,” declared Warren, who also called for reducing the military budget.

Others, including Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar, said they favored maintaining a small military presence in the Middle East.

“I bring a different perspective,” said Buttigeg, who was a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “We can continue to remain engaged without having an endless commitment to ground troops.”

The candidates will not share a debate stage again until after Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses, which will offer the first dose of clarity to the Democrats’ yearlong nomination fight.

Until then, the campaigning that played out Tuesday will take place in the living rooms and community centers of Iowa and the other early voting states. Meanwhile, Trump, with no serious primary election of his own to speak of, is free to continue focusing his political machine on the general election.


U.S. President Donald Trump, campaigning in neighbouring Wisconsin just as Democrats took the debate stage, tried to encourage the feud between Sanders and Warren from afar. (Jeffrey Phelps/The Associated Press)

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Ukraine testimony: What’s been said so far, and what could trip up the Democrats

It has been just over a month since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Democratic Party-led committees were proceeding under the framework of an impeachment inquiry, focusing on Trump administration dealings with Ukraine.

The July 25 call between Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenksy and the events surrounding it are threatening to damage Trump’s presidency in a way allegations of Russian interference on his behalf did not.

Through a whistleblower complaint and known testimony in closed sessions in front of House committees so far, a narrative has emerged of an “irregular channel,” as one diplomat described it, of dealings with Ukraine led by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

It has been alleged that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of Ukraine energy company Burisma, for corruption. As well, Trump wanted a probe into whether Ukraine, through cyber activities, had helped Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

The larger question is whether nearly $ 400 million in Ukraine aid was withheld for months until the Zelensky administration committed to doing Trump’s bidding. A recap of testimony highlights so far:

Praise for Biden, warning about Guiliani

Kurt Volker, who resigned as special representative for Ukraine the day after the whistleblower’s complaint became public, revealed on Oct. 3 that he helped draft a statement for Zelensky committing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Volker also said he told Zelensky while at a July 2 conference in Toronto that Giuliani had a negative perception of Ukraine’s corruption-fighting efforts and that it was likely influencing Trump’s views.

Volker characterized Biden as a “man of integrity” and said Trump once described Ukraine as full of “terrible people,” and that the country had “tried to take me down” in the 2016 election.

‘Concerted campaign’ to remove ambassador alleged

U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was removed from her post over two months before the July 25 call, during which Trump described her as “bad news,” and Zelensky agreed with that assessment “100 per cent.”

Yovanovitch said in her Oct. 11 opening statement that another official told her of a “concerted campaign” within the administration to remove her.

Other officials who’ve testified have praised her professionalism, with some lamenting the shoddy treatment they say she received from the administration.

Ukraine policy diverted to Giuliani

Gordon Sondland, Trump’s chosen ambassador to the European Union said on Oct. 17 it was apparent soon after Zelensky was elected in May that the president wanted Giuliani to be a point person on Ukraine policy.


Gordon Sondland, centre, released new information through his lawyer nearly two weeks after his appearance on Capitol Hill. Sondland was a consistent presence in the subsequent testimony of Bill Taylor. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press)

Sondland’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal in an Oct. 26 report that his client believed Trump’s pressure campaign amounted to a quid pro quo — Ukraine was to announce the twin probes Trump wanted in exchange for Zelensky getting a White House invitation.

Giuliani a ‘hand grenade’

Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s national security council recounted a July 10 meeting in which Sondland raised the matter of investigations, which she and others took as a reference to a probe into the Bidens, a person familiar with her testimony, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Nancy Pelosi is an important woman in Washington these days. The House Democratic Speaker is waging a high-stakes battle that could take down the U.S. president. Wendy Mesley takes a closer look at why Pelosi waited until now to launch the impeachment inquiry, and why she’s counting on the American public to support her plan. 6:08

Multiple U.S. media reports indicated that Hill in her Oct. 14 appearance relayed that then-national security adviser John Bolton was appalled when learning of Giuliani’s efforts, referring to him as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up.”

‘I think it’s crazy’

Bill Taylor, with some reluctance, became chargé d’affaires as essentially a replacement for Yovanovitch, who he spoke to before taking the role. Taylor levelled the most extensive publicly known allegations of a consistent pressure campaign on the Ukrainians to enable Trump’s investigations.

He described an unconventional group featuring Giuliani, Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry become involved in Ukraine policy, with more traditional diplomats on the file being kept out of the loop of key calls and readouts.

“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” he texted other officials on Sept. 9, raising the possibility aid to Ukraine was being held until Zelensky agreed to investigate the Bidens.

Outside development

Two Eastern European associates of Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were formally accused on Oct. 9 of using a shell company to launder a contribution of more than $ 300,000 US to a Trump political action committee. Foreign donations are prohibited under U.S. law.

An indictment also alleges the duo were agitating for Yovanovitch’s ouster.

“Individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” Yovanovitch said in her statement to the House committees.

Volker testified he attended a July 19 breakfast meeting on Ukraine with Giuliani in which Parnas was present.

What’s next

A number of State Department and national security officials not recognizable to most Americans, such as Tim Cummings, scheduled for Oct. 31, will be heard from.

The National Security Council official may have had first-hand knowledge of the July 25 call given that he described it in less-than-stellar terms to Taylor. Cummings also described, according to Taylor, having a “sinking feeling” that a quid pro quo was being demanded by the U.S.

There are some high-profile names who say they won’t comply with subpoenas to appear: Giuliani, Perry and Mick Mulvaney, who serves as both Trump’s chief of staff and the head of the Office of Management and Budget. According to Taylor’s testimony, an OMB staffer on July 18 said that a hold on Ukraine aid had been directed by Trump and was to be overseen by Mulvaney.

Democrats have few good options to compel their appearances, as they found out with investigations concerning Trump officials and Russia. Seeking a remedy in court would take months and bleed into the 2020 election race.

In an ideal world, the Democrats would want to have forwarded their successful votes on articles of impeachment for a Senate trial to proceed in January, given that the Democrat primary race begins in earnest with voting in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.


Former Trump National security adviser John Bolton, left, was reportedly agitated by the freelancing of Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine policy. Will Bolton appear before the House’s investigative committees? (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press)

Bolton, who left the White House last month, has reportedly not ruled out testifying. That possibility would likely enrage Trump.

Ex-congressman Pete Sessions, who allegedly received cash from Parnas and Fruman to help lobby the administration to dump Yovanovitch, is said to be complying with document requests and could also appear.

Democrats have indicated public hearings will take place in a matter of weeks. It is, after all, in their best interests to try and build a groundswell of public opinion among Americans in favour of impeachment.

Nov. 21 deadline

Val Demings, part of the House intelligence and judiciary committees, said investigators should be able to wrap up their inquiry by December.

But there’s a big caveat — the government only has funding to remain fully open through Nov. 21.

“The concern is that if we vote on impeachment before December, Trump will refuse to sign the funding bills and shut down the government,” a Democratic congressional aide told Reuters.

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El Paso shooting suspect said he targeted Mexicans, police say

The man accused of carrying out last weekend’s deadly mass shooting at a Walmart in the Texas border city of El Paso confessed to officers while he was surrendering and later explained that he had been targeting Mexicans, authorities say.

Patrick Crusius, 21, emerged with his hands up from a vehicle that was stopped at an intersection shortly after last Saturday’s attack and told officers, “I’m the shooter,” Detective Adrian Garcia said in an arrest warrant affidavit.

Crusius later waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with detectives, telling them he entered the store with an AK-47 assault rifle and multiple magazines, and that he was targeting Mexicans.

Twenty-two people were killed and about two dozen were injured. Most of the dead had Hispanic last names and eight were Mexican nationals.

Authorities believe that shortly before the attack, Crusius posted a racist screed online that railed against an influx of Hispanics into the U.S. The document parrots some of President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric about immigration, but the writer said his views predate Trump’s rise and that any attempt to blame the president for his actions was “fake news.”

Many El Paso residents, protesters and Democrats have blasted Trump over his incendiary words, blaming Trump for inflaming political and racial tensions throughout the country. Trump has denied stoking division and violence, contending this week that he “brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well.”


Authorities believe that shortly before the attack, Patrick Crusius posted a racist screed online that railed against an influx of Hispanics into the U.S. (FBI via AP)

Authorities say Crusius drove more than 10 hours from his hometown near Dallas to carry out the shooting in the largely Latino border city of El Paso. An attorney for the Crusius family, Chris Ayres, told The Associated Press that the rest of the family never heard Patrick Crusius use the kind of racist and anti-immigrant language that was posted in the online screed.

Crusius has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bond. Federal prosecutors have said they are also considering hate-crime charges.

The attack came hours before another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in which nine people were killed. The dual shootings killed 31 people in all wounded dozens more, reignited calls for Congress to take immediate action to reduce gun violence.

Trump said Friday that he believes he has influence to rally Republicans around stronger federal background check laws. But at the same time, Trump said he had assured the National Rifle Association that its gun rights views would be “fully represented and respected.”

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Tesla Stock Is Worth Half What Elon Said It’s Worth. Time to Panic?

Tesla stock is closing in on being worth half what it was at its peak in 2017. It’s down more than half from the $ 420 share valuation Elon Musk last fall suggested Tesla would reach when (if) he took the company private. (No, you can’t do predict things like that without annoying the SEC.) Tesla has had its ups and downs. Long-term investors have mostly been rewarded. But now?

No one’s saying Tesla is going belly-up or, more to the point, that you’ll no longer be able to buy the only EV that matters. (In the minds of Tesla purists.) But Tesla is traveling unfamiliar roads now. The biggest issue facing Tesla may be whether China wants to buy that many Teslas. Meanwhile, Tesla knocked a couple thousand off the list prices of the Model S and Model X. And then Consumer Reports issued a safety warning about Tesla’s Autopilot lane change features.

CR Says Auto-Lane Change Isn’t Always Safe

Let’s take a look at Tesla’s key issues this week: another Autopilot safety issue, how Tesla cars are faring, the stock price, and the market outside the US, particularly China.

Wednesday, Consumer Reports said, “[The] latest version of Tesla’s automatic lane-changing feature is far less competent than a human driver.” According to Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ senior director of auto testing, “[T]he system does the easy stuff, but the human needs to intervene when things get more complicated.”

With the current version of Autopilot software, issued April 3, automatic lane changes are now part of Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Capability. The latter, despite its name, is not full self-driving. Consumer Reports test drivers had mixed impressions:

In early May, our Model 3 received a software update that allowed Navigate on Autopilot to make automatic lane changes without requiring driver confirmation. We enabled the feature and drove on several highways across Connecticut. In the process, multiple testers reported that the Tesla often changed lanes in ways that a safe human driver would not—cutting too closely in front of other cars, and passing on the right. [We couldn’t help but add emphasis here. – Ed.]

In practice, we found that Navigate on Autopilot lagged far behind a human driver’s skill set: The feature cut off cars without leaving enough space and even passed other cars in ways that violate state laws, according to several law enforcement representatives CR interviewed for this report. As a result, the driver often had to prevent the system from making poor decisions.

Tesla’s comment didn’t appear to directly address the problems CR found: “Navigate on Autopilot is based on map data, fleet data, and data from the vehicle’s sensors. However, it is the driver’s responsibility to remain in control of the car at all times, including safely executing lane changes.”

Last fall Elon Musk said TSLA would be worth $ 420 a share. Wednesday (5/22/2019) it closed at $ 193, almost exactly Tesla’s all-time actual (not projected) high of $ 385. TSLA hadn’t been below $ 200 since December 2016.

Soft Sales Hurt Tesla Everywhere

Tesla’s production and sales figures are notoriously hard to fathom. When a new model is announced, Tesla crows about how many thousands of intenders have put down deposits. When it’s not a good quarter for sales, Tesla talks about production and then, as surely as Boston sports fans grow obnoxious when they smell a third title in sight, Tesla talks about how there’s an insanely large number of sales that haven’t yet been delivered (which to many means they haven’t been sold yet) because they’re on transporters crisscrossing the country, or on boats to distant lands.

It’s simple, really: When the full US tax credit of $ 7,500 per car expired at the end of 2018 and became $ 3,750 for the next six months, Tesla’s 2019 Q1 deliveries slipped badly. They were up 110 percent 2019 Q1 versus 2018 Q1, which is how you normally compare. But they were 31 percent less in 2019 Q1 versus 2018 Q4 after the full tax credit expired.

Here is Bloomberg opinion writer Liam Denning Apri 3 describing the early-April reporting days for January to April 2019 sales/deliveries and how Tesla sees the year shaping up:

Tesla issued guidance of 360,000 to 400,000 vehicle deliveries in 2019. Within hours, CEO Elon Musk raised that (verbally) to 350,000 to 500,000 Model 3s alone. Then he tweeted some stuff, walked it back within hours, and the Securities and Exchange Commission got involved.

Tesla this week lowered the starting prices of the Model S by $ 3,000 (to $ 71,250) and the Model Y SUV by $ 2,000 (to $ 71,950). That either makes up for earlier price hikes or anticipates the July cutback in tax credits in the US from $ 3,750 to $ 1,875. The $ 1,875 credit lasts for six months and then, for Tesla, it’s gone.

Tesla on fire in Shanghai garage this spring. Regardless of the market, the cars are hot (to the touch).

Is the China Market Really Tesla’s to Conquer

With US sales slowing and the Europe market not yet having the same love affair with Tesla as US buyers showed,  Tesla CEO Elon Musk talked about opportunities in China. Auto sales last year in China were 28 million versus 17 million in the US, the second largest auto market. The conventional wisdom on why China was a good thing for Tesla was:

  1. China has pollution, big-time. The government declared 20 percent of the automotive fleet needs to be electrified by 2025.
  2. China needs EVs, especially if Tesla builds them in China.
  3. Not everyone in China can afford a Tesla but with a population of 1.39 billion versus the US’ 0.33 billion — forgetting what’s left of the decimal point, China is still more populous — it’s probably big enough to surpass the US.
  4. And they need a battery factory, too, which can be a joint venture. (Actually, has to be a joint venture with a Chinese group.)

Tesla’s plan was to build a Shanghai factory for $ 500 million. The company broke ground in January, it’s supposed to be building cars by end-of-year, and the loan is due to the syndicate of Chinese banks next spring. Given Tesla’s challenges getting its factory in Fremont, California, to run smoothly, the timeline for Shanghai production could be iffy. Some critics are sniping: If Shanghai opens on schedule, the production-line testing might be compromised. And if Tesla waits to debug the line, it won’t build cars in China until 2020. The first cars built there would be Tesla Model 3s, followed by Model Ys, the upcoming, affordable SUV.

Back in 2016, Anne Stevenson-Yang of J Capital Research wrote:

Tesla … has a corona of glamour in the China market … [it] seems to make its sales to companies, not individuals … Tesla debuted its Model S in China in April 2014 and derived 15.3% of its revenue from China in 2014. But registrations did not keep track with sales, as many vehicles sat in the channel or at Tesla’s bonded warehouse. Most buyers, it turned out, used their Teslas for commercial purposes, whether property developers or hotels parking the cars outside almost like props, to demonstrate affluence to potential buyers.

It’s unclear how well equipped Tesla is for a China market that may value high production numbers over innovation and luxury. The Tesla Model 3, which is just beginning to be sold in China, is an economy car only in contrast to the Model S. In China, the Model 3 Long Range, the cheapest Tesla there, costs $ 64,300. In comparison, the BYD e5 electric sedan starts at $ 21,000. Tesla had the misfortune of having a Model S sedan catch fire in a Shanghai garage and be captured on camera.

Every EV maker, not just Tesla, also faces the problem of charging. The majority of China’s city dwellers live in apartment buildings. Single-car garages are rarities, so finding places to charge are challenging.

Outside of China, Teslas are finding more intense competition in Europe from Audi and Jaguar, with more automakers emerging. Europe, too, is pushing hard to lower pollution through the increased use of EVs and less reliance on diesels. Research and analysis firm Jato Dynamics says diesel sales there were down to 31 percent of the market in March. In comparison, sales of electrified vehicles (EVs, plug-in hybrids, hybrids) passed 100,000 for the first time.

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