NATO Summit: Europe sees China through a Russian lens, and Beijing is not happy

But another country has also been pulled into the spotlight in those meetings: China. And Beijing is not happy about it.

Differences still exist between countries on how to treat China, observers say. Some NATO members want to ensure the focus remains squarely on Russia, while the United States — by far the block’s most powerful member — has pegged China as the “most serious long-term challenge to the international order.”

But the developments this week, which show China to be higher on these bodies’ agendas than ever before, signal an increasing alignment between the US and its partners.

They also mark a significant setback for Beijing, which has tried to drive a wedge between the American and European stances on China, observers say.

“The combination of the kind of language used by the G7 and (China’s formal inclusion) in NATO strategic documents is indeed a blow for (China), and something that they would have hoped and wished to be able to prevent,” said Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic fellow in the Asia Program at The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

“It’s an exceptionally strong period in terms of transatlantic cooperation and that translates for China in ways that they’re very concerned about,” he said.

On the agenda

China’s concerns have been clear this week, as its Foreign Ministry pushed back on the possibility of being named a “systemic challenge” in NATO’s new strategic vision, expected to be approved during the bloc’s summit, which began Tuesday.

“China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. It does not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs or export ideology, still less engage in long-arm jurisdiction, economic coercion or unilateral sanctions. How could China be labeled a ‘systemic challenge’?” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday.

“We solemnly urge NATO to immediately stop spreading false and provocative statements against China,” he said, adding that NATO should “stop seeking to disrupt Asia and the whole world after it has disrupted Europe.”

But that rhetoric — blaming NATO for “disruption” in Europe — is part of what is driving a shift in European perspectives, analysts say, as Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, including the killing of civilians, while actively blaming the US and NATO for provoking Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Beijing on February 4, weeks before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

China “very quickly and very clearly lined itself up — at least in words, not so much in deeds — with Russia,” while transatlantic partners came together against Russia and in support of Ukraine in the wake of the invasion, said Pepijn Bergsen, a research fellow in the Europe Program at the Chatham House think tank in London.

The contrast between the two has helped drive an emerging “democracies versus autocracies” narrative in Europe, he said, adding that internal politics also play a role.

“In Eastern and Central Europe, where Russia is regarded as by far the number one security threat, relations (with China) had already been starting to fray, but the fact that China so clearly lined up with Russia has accelerated a shift,” Bergsen said.

Rising concerns about China from the G7 — made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US — were reflected in the bloc’s joint communique, released after a summit in German Bavaria.

The document, which mentioned China around a dozen times — versus four references in the G7 leaders’ statement a year earlier — touched on areas of cooperation, but focused on calling on China to improve its human rights record and abide by international rules.

And in a mark of how Russia has shaped the bloc’s view on China, the group called on Beijing to “press” Moscow to comply with United Nations resolutions and stop its military aggression. The statement followed what Washington called the “formal launch” on Sunday of a $600 billion G7 infrastructure investment initiative, first announced last year.

The drive, which the European Union said would “demonstrate the power of development finance when it reflects democratic values,” was an apparent bid to counter China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, which critics say Beijing has used to build its global influence.

‘Challenges posed’

But that’s not to say that views within Europe and on both sides of the Atlantic are aligned on China. This may be most clearly on display at NATO, where how exactly the 30-country bloc should treat China has been a key area of debate.

In recent years, as NATO statements began to reference China, some members and observers raised concerns that taking too firm a stance risked turning China into an enemy.

Others have seen China as outside the region’s key security interests.

Following a NATO meeting last June, in which leaders characterized China as a security challenge, French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the move with a quip that “China is not in the North Atlantic.”

Some of those concerns still exist, even amid an emerging “authoritarians versus democracies” narrative being promoted by the US, according to Pierre Haroche, a research fellow in European security at the Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM, Paris).

“Do you want to solidify the ‘dragon-bear monster’ to show that there is a clear ideological ‘Cold War’ between democracies and autocracies, because that’s convenient in terms of the narrative? Or is it (a better) strategy to say that the two (China and Russia) are very different actors … who might even, in the future, oppose one another?” said Haroche, summarizing the debate.

But even as differences in view may exist between member states, it’s clear that NATO is thinking bigger at this year’s summit, with the historic inclusion of leaders from New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, and Japan.

The move was met with ire in China, where officials have long argued that NATO was seeking to expand its presence into the Indo-Pacific, which Beijing views as its own neighborhood.

“The sewage of the Cold War cannot be allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean – this should be the general consensus in the Asia-Pacific region,” a Tuesday editorial from the Communist Party-affiliated nationalist tabloid Global Times said.

But observers have characterized this not so much as an expansion of NATO into the Indo-Pacific, but rather a bid to strengthen relations between, in the NATO secretariat’s words, “like-minded countries.”

Those democracies across the Pacific, like their counterparts in Europe, may now be seeing the threats they face as more connected, according to the German Marshall Fund’s Small.

“There is much more of a sense emerging from all of this, conditioned by the China challenge, by the Russia challenge, that the democratic allies have to be more effectively coordinated,” he said.

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Saanich, British Columbia: 6 officers injured in shootout outside a Canadian bank, two suspects were shot and killed, police say

The suspects were killed after exchanging fire with police outside the bank in Saanich, according to Dean Duthie, the chief constable of the Saanich Police Department.

No one inside the bank was injured, Duthie said, noting it was one of the most violent scenes he’s seen in his nearly 27 years of service in Saanich, which is a district municipality on Vancouver Island in the Greater Victoria area.

“What I know about that chaotic, tragic, dynamic, violent scene, the fact that no citizens were injured in any way is truly amazing,” Duthie said.

Officers first responded to the scene around 11 a.m. after receiving a report that two armed men had entered a bank.

Officers engaged the suspects outside the bank, Duthie said at a news conference. The suspects were heavily armed and believed to be wearing body armor, he said.

During the confrontation, three officers from the Saanich Police Department and three from the Victoria Police Department were injured.

“A lot of shots were fired,” said Joan Flood, a Saanich resident who told CNN she was in in her fourth-floor apartment across the street from the bank when the shooting happened.

Police officers gather at the scene of a shootout in Saanich, British Columbia, Tuesday.

“I heard a gunshot and I was standing and turned around in the living room and then saw the police coming up to the bank with guns drawn,” she said.

Flood said as the scene unfolded, she saw a person fall to the ground and not get back up.

“As I was watching, a person came from behind the bank crouched over who definitely looked like they were hurt,” she said. “And they started to crawl and then they laid down and stayed that way.”

Three of the injured officers were expected to be released from the hospital, while the other three were undergoing surgery with more serious injuries, Duthie said Tuesday.

Homes and businesses near the scene were evacuated because of a potential explosive device in a vehicle connected to the suspects, he added.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police told CNN it is assisting Saanich Police.

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Gigi and Bella Hadid stun runway with partially ‘shaved’ heads

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid debuted bold new looks Monday, storming a New York runway with bleached eyebrows, short bangs and — what appeared to be — half-shaved heads.

But the sisters’ dramatic transformation was soon revealed to be the work of prosthetics artists, who had altered their appearance with the help of bald caps, wigs and makeup.

Gigi Hadid pictured during a rehearsal ahead of the show.

Gigi Hadid pictured during a rehearsal ahead of the show. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The futuristic styling was part of Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2022 show, which saw the designer’s eponymous brand unveil over 40 new looks at the New York Public Library, a Beaux-Arts style building on Fifth Avenue. Gigi modeled an enormous pink sweater and gray skirt, while Bella was dressed in a black vinyl dress with opera gloves.

Elsewhere in the presentation, models wore brightly colored, monochromatic garments that spanned outsized knitwear, voluminous ruffled gowns and dramatic platform boots. The Hadids were among several models walking the runway in dramatic hairstyles, with others seen sporting sharp bobs and space-age bangs.

Gig Hadid wearing outsized knitwear at Marc Jacobs' Fall 2022 show in New York.

Gig Hadid wearing outsized knitwear at Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2022 show in New York. Credit: Courtesy Mark Jacobs

On Instagram, Bella posted various backstage photos and a timelapse video showing makeup and prosthetic artists creating her look.

Online, the images sparked mixed reactions — and concern from some social media users believing the model had shaved her head for real. But fashion photographer Elizaveta Porodina replied to Bella’s post saying she looked “absolutely angelic,” while the activist and journalist Noor Tagouri commented: “The transformation is amazing.”

Gigi Hadid walks the runway during a rehearsal at the New York Public Library.

Gigi Hadid walks the runway during a rehearsal at the New York Public Library. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The eye-catching styling was overseen by Marc Jacobs’ makeup artist Diane Kendal and hairstylist Duffy. One of the special effects artists responsible for the Hadids’ looks, Noël Jacoboni, took to Instagram to say that working on the show had been “surreal.”

“Today was the perfect marriage of my ability to do a bald cap as well as work for one of my favorite designers with some of the top models in the industry,” she posted.
Bella Hadid walks the runway at Marc Jacobs Fall 2022 at the New York Public Library.

Bella Hadid walks the runway at Marc Jacobs Fall 2022 at the New York Public Library. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Jacobs’ latest spectacle, which was livestreamed on LED screens in New York’s Times Square, comes a year after he last staged a runway show in the same venue.

The American designer’s cryptic show notes declared that “creativity is essential living” before ending on a quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “We have art in order not to die of the truth.”

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Vermont ski resort to change ‘insensitive’ name

(CNN) — A popular Vermont ski resort originally known as Suicide Six has announced that it will change its “insensitive” name in the weeks to come.

“Our resort team embraces the increasing awareness surrounding mental health and shares the growing concerns about the insensitive nature of the historical name. The feelings that the word ‘suicide’ evokes can have a significant impact on many in our community,” the note read.

The post continued: “It is vital that the name better represents and celebrates what makes it a beloved and vibrant part of this community. Though some may find the change difficult, we stand by our conviction that this evolution is warranted for an iconic treasure and, more importantly, necessary to continue its rich history of inclusion and accessibility.”

The ski and snowboard resort is in the Vermont town of Pomfret, about 50 miles (80 km) south of the state capital of Montpelier.

This area north of Woodstock, Vermont, is credited with being the first major ski area in the United States. U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame honoree Wallace “Bunny” Bertram installed a primitive rope tow system on the mountain there, an innovation many cite as the first ski lift.

Bertram, who died in 1981, dubbed the area “Suicide Six,” which he thought was more catchy than the existing name “Hill 6.”

The resort is also a member of Ski Vermont’s Fairness, Equity and Diversity initiative. Forty-eight of the state’s ski resorts signed an open letter supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.

Ski and outdoor destinations throughout North America have been reconsidering their names in the past few years.

Last year, California’s Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows resort, which hosted snow events in the 1960 Winter Olympics, decided to change its name to Palisades Tahoe.

“While we love our local history and the memories, we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term ‘squaw’ is considered offensive,” Ron Cohen, the resort’s president and COO, said at the time, adding that property ownership had worked with the local Washoe tribe on the name change project.

Meanwhile, in Canada, a collection of mountain cabins inside Jasper National Park chose to change its moniker from Pocahontas Cabins to Miette Mountain Cabins following dialogue with First Nations communities in the area.

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Bangladesh floods: 7.2 million need aid, Red Cross says

Hundreds of thousands of homes near the Bangladesh-India border are underwater, and in the worst-hit areas whole neighborhoods have been submerged, aid agencies said Tuesday.

At least 207 people in both countries have died since the floods began in April, according to official figures.

Torrential rain has caused rivers in Bangladesh — a densely populated delta nation — to overflow, submerging areas that border the Indian state of Meghalaya, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Some 94% of Bangladesh’s Sunamganj town and 84% of the surrounding Sylhet district are now submerged, the IFRC said. Roads leading to the region have been largely cut off and there are power cuts even in areas not underwater.

Save the Children said the floods had “washed away homes, schools and livelihoods,” damaging at least 93,000 homes and 419 primary schools in Sylhet in May alone.

“We have never seen this sort of flooding in our living memories in that region,” said Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Kazi Shofiqul Azam.

Bangladesh has about 700 rivers, making it particularly vulnerable to flooding during extreme weather events. The IFRC estimated the total number of people in Bangladesh in need of aid at 7.2 million.

Meanwhile, in the eastern Indian state of Assam, which neighbors Bangladesh, flooding has displaced more than 270,000 people, according to authorities.
Millions affected after deadly floods hit India and Bangladesh

Parts of Meghalaya state have experienced the most rainfall in decades, which has caused large river systems running between India and Bangladesh to overflow and inundate surrounding areas.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent is spending $10 million on relief and recovery operations. Volunteer teams on the ground have been distributing food and drinking water.

The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal to raise a further $7.8 million, which it says could help another 300,000 people.

Aid agencies say those communities worst affected by flooding tend to be those that are already impoverished.

Additional reporting by CNN’s Esha Mitra and Swati Gupta in New Delhi.

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San Antonio migrant truck deaths: 51 people have died


A distant cry led a worker to a tractor-trailer abandoned on a desolate country road under the blazing Texas sun on the outskirts of San Antonio Monday evening.

On this barren stretch of scrubland adjacent to railroad tracks, the perilous journey north for dozens of undocumented migrants – most of them Mexican – ended in the back of a scorching tractor-trailer, nearly 150 miles north of the US border with Mexico.

By Tuesday, 51 people had died in what one Homeland Security Investigations’ agent called the deadliest human smuggling incident in US history.

“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

A local businessman described the back road where the semitruck was abandoned as “la boca del lobo” in Spanish, or “the mouth of the wolf,” because it is remote and pitch black.

The road runs parallel to I-35, a major north-south route in the central United States for traffic and commerce from the southern border. The interstate stretches from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minnesota, near the Canadian border. From San Antonio, it meanders north to Austin, Waco, Forth Worth and Dallas.

Members of law enforcement investigate the tractor-trailer on June 27, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.

It’s a route often exploited by smugglers at a time when record numbers of migrants are being intercepted at the US-Mexico border.

“This sheds light on how dangerous human smuggling is,” said Craig Larrabee, Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio acting special agent in charge.

“In the past, smuggling organizations were mom and pop,” Larrabee told CNN. “Now, they are organized and tied in with the cartels. So you have a criminal organization who has no regard for the safety of the migrants. They are treated like commodities rather than people.”

Just before 6 p.m. on Monday, a worker in a nearby building heard a cry for help and alerted local authorities to the abandoned truck, according to San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus.

The doors to the hulking trailer were partially open when the worker arrived. Inside, he saw the bodies, the chief said.

In all, 48 people were dead at the scene and two died later at hospitals, said a federal law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They were migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

One body was found outside the trailer.

Inside the truck there were at least 22 Mexicans and two Hondurans, the federal law enforcement official said.

Seven Guatemalans were among the dead, and another Guatemalan was in critical condition at a hospital, according to that nation’s foreign minister.

“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said told reporters on Monday. “None of us come to work imagining that.”

These dangerous and sometimes fatal human smuggling operations, transporting people in crammed trailers and vans with no air conditioning, are common along the southern border.

In 2017, 10 migrants died and dozens were injured from heat-related conditions in a tractor-trailer discovered at a San Antonio Walmart about three miles northeast of the latest incident. The driver of the truck was sentenced to life without parole in a federal prison.

Police and other first responders at scene where dozens of migrants were found dead Monday in San Antonio.

On Tuesday, San Antonio resident Angelita Olvera left two colorful crosses in honor of the victims near the site of the latest tragedy.

“I didn’t know them,” she told CNN of the victims. “They are sons, mothers, fathers and grandchildren.”

Temperatures in San Antonio on Monday ranged from the high 90s to the low 100s.

Sixteen survivors – 12 adults and four children – were rushed to local hospitals. Suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion, the patients were hot to the touch, according to Hood.

The trailer had no air conditioning. There was no sign of water inside. It was unclear how long the victims had been dead.

“They were still in there, awaiting help, when we arrived … meaning just being too weak – weakened state – to actually get out and help themselves,” Hood said of the survivors.

Felipe Betancourt Jr., co-owner of trucking company in Alamo, Texas, told CNN the semitruck abandoned on Monday used the same federal and state identifying numbers as one of his vehicles. The truck in San Antonio is the same color as his red Volvo semi, but is not owned by his firm.

A man pays his respects at a makeshift memorial for the victims in San Antonio.

Refrigerated semi-trucks are insulated and meant to keep the temperatures stable, Betancourt said, but “if it’s carrying something hot inside, it won’t let the heat escape. The temperatures can reach up to 125-130 degrees when the doors are shut.”

On Monday, the truck went through a checkpoint north of Laredo, Texas, according to US Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose district includes Laredo and San Antonio.

Homeland security officials are investigating the deaths, along with local police.

Three people were taken into police custody away from the trailer, Chief McManus said. They are believed to be part of the smuggling conspiracy, according to ICE.

Two men, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, were charged federally with “possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the United States” in connection with the incident, according to criminal complaints filed Monday in US District Court for the Western District of Texas. It is unclear if the two men charged are among the three people detained earlier.

Investigators at the scene traced the Texas registration plate on the semi-truck and to a residence in San Antonio, the affidavit said. The suspects were arrested during traffic stops after leaving the residence, according to the complaints, and numerous weapons were recovered in a car and truck driven by the suspects.

The victims were 39 men and 12 women.

So far, the medical examiner’s office has identified potentially 34 people, Precinct 1 Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores said. Medical examiners in neighboring counties have been asked to assist due to the number of victims.

Consular officials from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras also vowed to help identify victims and assist survivors.

“Far too many lives have been lost as individuals – including families, women, and children – take this dangerous journey,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on social media.

The Biden administration earlier this month launched what Mayorkas called an “unprecedented” operation to disrupt human smuggling networks amid soaring numbers of migrants at the southern border.

President Joe Biden described Monday’s discovery as “horrifying and heartbreaking.”

“Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry,” Biden said.

Pope Francis, via Twitter, urged prayers “for these brothers and sisters who died following their hope of a better life.”

Migrant rescues are increasing across the nation’s southern border.

Since October, more than 14,000 searches and rescues have occurred along the border with Mexico, according to US Customs and Border Protection – including those from dangerous water crossings. That’s up from 12,833 searches and rescues in fiscal year 2021, with more than three months left in this fiscal year.

At least 650 people died while trying to cross the US-Mexico border last year, the highest number since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency.

Monday’s tragedy brings the total number of deaths for the first six months of the year to 290.

On Tuesday, helicopters buzzed over the desolate stretch of road where the trailer was abandoned as authorities searched for other migrants who might have been on the truck.

Olvera, the resident who left crosses near the scene, recalled joining neighbors in 2017 to pray for the 10 migrants who died in a broiling tractor-trailer parked at a Walmart.

She used to live in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Olvera said, fighting back tears, and is too familiar with the poverty some migrants have died fleeing.

It’s a tragedy that has repeated itself throughout the years. In 2003, 18 migrants, ranging in age from 7 to 91, were found dead in the back of a semitruck in Texas with about 100 other people as temperatures soared past 100 degrees, investigators said. The driver in that case was initially sentenced to life in prison, but in 2011 was resentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.

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January 6 hearings: Another American woman just stood up to protect democracy from Trump

She said she had been told that the ex-President had lunged for his top Secret Service agent when the agent refused to have Trump driven to the Capitol riot scene, thought then-Vice President Mike Pence deserved to be hanged, said he knew his insurrectionists were armed but wanted them to march on Congress anyway and, in a separate incident in December 2020, left a White House wall dripping in ketchup after furiously flinging his lunch plate. (After the testimony, a Secret Service official familiar with the matter told CNN that Tony Ornato, then-White House deputy chief of staff, denies telling Hutchinson that the former President had grabbed the wheel or an agent on his detail.)

Braving reprisals from Trump world — amid new allegations that the ex-President’s acolytes have intimidated witnesses — Hutchinson’s appearance contrasted with cronies who closed ranks to protect their old boss or Republicans who privately disdain him but stay quiet to save their political skins.

And her willingness to go before millions of worldwide viewers to tell the truth contrasted with Trump’s cowardice in failing to admit that he lost a fair election.

Compelling testimony

Hutchinson joined a group of female witnesses who have delivered the bulk of the most compelling testimony in the committee’s televised hearings, often at risk to their own safety and hopes of returning to normal life or careers.

They have debunked propaganda that January 6, 2021, was just a tourist day out, peeled the curtain back on Trump’s conspiracy to steal the election, described the price of his victimization of those who stood in his way, and detailed the ravings of a President who lost his grip on reality on one of America’s most painful days.

7 takeaways from Tuesday's shocking January 6 hearing

Capitol Hill Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was knocked unconscious by Trump’s rioters on January 6, described chilling scenes of hand-to-hand combat with Trump’s gang and how she had slipped on the blood flowing underfoot.

In one of the most poignant moments of the hearings so far, mother-and-daughter election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss told how Trump’s searing personal attacks and false claims that they were fixing vote counts in Georgia had ruined their lives and left them scared of going out. Moss said she had left her job as an election worker and most of the people she had worked with had done likewise.

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, who had already sacrificed her fast climb to the top Republican leadership ranks in the House to expose Trump’s lies and assault on American democracy, is expertly delivering a patriotic service that far outweighs any personal ambitions.

A number of men have also made powerful statements during the hearings — including Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican who told of how he had chosen his oath to the Constitution over his preference that Trump win the election in rebuffing the ex-President’s pressure to fix the vote. And Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and top Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling reprised their already well-known and vital roles in stopping Trump’s attempt to steal victory in the Peach State.
January 6 committee rebukes the election lies some GOP candidates continue to run on

But many other witnesses, including members of Trump’s legal and campaign teams and his family, long kept quiet about his assault on American democracy and unburdened themselves only under oath. Others, including Meadows and ex-White House counsel Pat Cipollone — who, according to Hutchinson on Tuesday, had warned that staff could be charged with “every crime imaginable” if they let Trump go to Capitol Hill on January 6 — are refusing to testify.

And at one head-spinning moment of Tuesday’s hearing, one of Trump’s most zealous supporters, his fired first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was seen in taped testimony invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when asked if he backed peaceful transfers of power.

If there was one moment that exemplifies the poisoned political priorities of those around Trump, it was Flynn’s reply — forensically extracted by Cheney — which followed a lengthy off-camera consultation with his attorney.

Democracy needs brave defenders

If American democracy is to survive one of its most serious challenges, it needs brave defenders. And again and again the hearings are revealing profiles in courage that contrast with the craven behavior of those who still appease and boost Trump.

Tuesday’s hearing, for instance, featured a January 6 television interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in which he condemned the riots. But only a few weeks later, the California Republican flew down to Trump’s winter palace at Mar-a-Lago to rehabilitate his relationship with the former President and anchor the 2022 GOP election strategy to Trump’s alternative reality of election fraud lies and revenge fantasies. McCarthy has since led the House Republican Conference’s attempt to whitewash conduct by Trump, which is looking ever more seditious as he seeks the ex-President’s blessing for his ambitions of becoming speaker.

McCarthy is far from the only Republican who finds it easier, or more politically profitable, to appease extremism than to confront it. His GOP House orbit is packed with members like Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, who have misrepresented and slandered the work of the committee in an apparent quest to ride Trump’s popularity with grassroots conservatives to power.

Unlike Hutchinson, they are not willing to taste Trump’s wrath. The ex-President was quick to lambast the former White House aide, denying her claims and blasting her on his Truth Social platform as a phony and a leaker.

But Hutchinson had testified Tuesday that she faithfully worked to highlight what she saw as Trump’s achievements in office but could finally take no more when he and Meadows were prepared to let democracy burn down around them.

She confessed that after watching the insurrection unfold from inside the West Wing, she had viewed Trump’s attacks on Pence, who was presiding over the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win, as “unpatriotic” and “un-American.”

“We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie,” she said.

Cheney hailed Hutchinson.

“Our nation is preserved by those who abide by their oaths to our Constitution. Our nation is preserved by those who know the fundamental difference between right and wrong,” the Wyoming Republican said.

“I want all Americans to know that what Miss Hutchinson has done today is not easy. The easy course is to hide from the spotlight, to refuse to come forward, to attempt to downplay or deny what happened.”

Several of Hutchinson’s former colleagues who have previously broken with Trump world told CNN they were concerned for her safety as Trump and his gang slime her.

“Her life will be forever changed,” Olivia Troye, a former homeland security adviser to Pence, told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former White House communications director for Trump who resigned in December 2020 as the then-President’s plans to thwart the transition of power were gathering pace, contrasted Hutchinson’s courage with the malfeasance of the pro-Trump Republicans.

“To the members of Congress who are afraid of the reelection, well, this woman is out there speaking at threat to her life. They should listen to that,” said Farah Griffin, who’s now a CNN political commentator.

Yet with Trump apparently pressing forward with his plans for a potential 2024 presidential campaign — and with the incentive structure still in place for GOP candidates who want his blessing — it is unlikely that Hutchinson’s courage or that of her fellow witnesses will be the last stands required in the defense of US democracy.

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Journalists are unflinching as they cover explosive 1/6 testimony. Meanwhile, MAGA Media spins for Trump

“What we have witnessed today, in front of the American people, is something we have not seen before,” ABC News’ David Muir commented after Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony. “We have said this a number of times after these hearings, but this is quite different.”

Over on CNN, Jake Tapper was more blunt, saying it was “one of the most stunning offerings of testimony in American history.” Tapper later said Hutchinson had “exploded the lies and the myths that the Trump team have been perpetuating for more than a year now.”
Muir and Tapper weren’t alone. The testimony even rocked — to some extent — the daytime Fox News crew. Bret Baier noted that he has “covered politics a long time” before saying the kind of “jaw-dropping” testimony of a White House in crisis delivered Tuesday had not been on display before the American people “since Watergate.”

All across the news media, the coverage has been unflinching. The all-caps headline across NYT’s homepage Tuesday night read, “AIDE DETAILS TRUMP’S RAGE ON JAN. 6.” The Drudge Report captured the dramatic testimony with a set of five banner headlines detailing “THE DON’S RAGE.”

The bar for being taken aback by Donald Trump’s behavior is quite high at this point in time. Much of the press and the public have become desensitized to the former president’s unhinged conduct. It’s difficult to jolt the country with details of his antics. But the surprise Tuesday hearing unquestionably did just that.

“It was a big deal”

Don’t simply take it from me. Take it from John Dean. Remember, he said on Monday that the surprise hearing “better be a big deal” and told the lawmakers to “cancel now if you can’t match.” He said on CNN right after the hearing, “it was a big deal. Absolutely. I think she knocked it out of the park…”

What’s next?

Former acting White House chief of staff turned CBS News political commentator Mick Mulvaney turned to Twitter to offer his thoughts during the hearing. Among them: “Things went very badly for the former President today. My guess is that it will get worse from here.”

Surely, the committee has more damning revelations that it plans to share. As Chris Wallace noted on CNN, “There are some secrets still out there.” Wallace pointed out that after all the investigative journalism and books that have been written about Trump, the Tuesday hearing proved some shocking details about his behavior that have gone unreported. So what shoe will drop next?

NYT TV critic’s review

“For one afternoon, the investigation played like the Watergate hearings as punched up by the writers’ room of ’24,'” NYT TV critic James Poniewozik wrote

“Barring further surprises, the committee now takes a midseason hiatus until after the July 4 holiday. It has left its viewers with quite a story to chew on over the break. The price of success, of course, is raising the bar, and it remains to be seen whether the hearings’ final run can pay off the buildup, or whether it can spur actual political or legal action. But this installment? It was a beast.”

Lowry’s Watergate point


A quick note about the Jan. 6 hearing comparisons to Watergate strictly from a media perspective: While the analogy is understandable, the media landscape has changed so profoundly that as a point of reference it misses how the world has changed, in ways that both undermine the impact of Hutchinson’s testimony (the sheer volume of available options to distract us) and that magnifies it (real-time social-media commentary, and endless postgame analysis, calling attention to every one of her revelations)…

How it’s playing in MAGA Media

I noted earlier that the dayside Fox crew expressed some shock at Hutchinson’s testimony. The same cannot be said for the bloc of prime time propagandists Rupert Murdoch employs.

As you would expect, by the time Sean Hannity’s program aired, Fox was firmly back in Trump’s corner. Hannity told his audience that the Tuesday hearing was yet another “meaningless” product of work from the “anti-Trump kangaroo court” working in the “Washington sewer.” Hannity ranted against what he said is “an obsessive compulsive cult-like rage against Donald Trump” from “Trump haters” that “never ends.” And he went on to attack Hutchinson.

Which is all to say, that if you were under the impression that the hearing was going to play differently in MAGA Media than scandals of the past, it is most certainly not…

“Facts mean nothing”

Carl Bernstein on Tuesday night acknowledged that facts simply do not move the modern day GOP. “Facts mean nothing,” he said during a panel on CNN. “Facts have meant nothing for four years of the presidency, for the post-presidency of Donald Trump, and for the campaign of Donald Trump.”

Bernstein suggested again that the old rules that govern journalism are broken. He said the press needs to “deal with this” in another way and asked, “How do we start to cover this differently?”

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Uvalde gunman’s grandmother, who was shot in the face, has been released from a Texas hospital

University Health in San Antonio said a 66-year-old patient injured the day of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde has been released.
The Uvalde parents have been failed, again
The only remaining patient from the shooting, a 10-year-old girl, has been upgraded to good condition, the hospital system tweeted Tuesday.
As CNN has previously reported, the 66-year-old woman is the grandmother of the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos.

The grandmother’s husband, Rolando Reyes, said his wife was shot in the face at their home. The shooting happened before her grandson drove to nearby Robb Elementary and killed 19 children and two teachers, authorities said.

A bullet pierced the jaw and upper cheek of his wife, Reyes told CNN last month, and she would need significant reconstructive surgery at a hospital in San Antonio.

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Two rare studies of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ will be sold in London auction

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Two chalk and pastel studies of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” that once belonged to a 19th-century Dutch king will be up for auction next month.

The portraits of the heads of St. John the Evangelist and St. James, who are each sat to the left of Jesus Christ in the famed fresco in Milan, are part of a Sotheby’s London sale on July 6 dedicated to master works on paper.

Attributed to Leonardo’s assistant, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, each 25-by-18.5-inch drawing, made to be the actual size of the figures in the painting, are estimated to sell for up to £120,000 ($146,500) each.

A chalk and pastel study depicting the head of St. James the Less, attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio.

A chalk and pastel study depicting the head of St. James the Less, attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. Credit: Sotheby’s London

According to Cristiana Romalli, a senior specialist of Old Master drawings at Sotheby’s, experts aren’t exactly sure why the studies were produced, but said the large-scale portraits are “extremely rare.”

Part of a series of 11 similar studies of the apostles depicted in “The Last Supper,” the collection was once owned by the famous English painter Thomas Lawrence as well as William II, King of the Netherlands, before they were split up and held by several museums, galleries and private hands. This pair of drawings were last sold as separate lots in 2005 at Christie’s, fetching $96,000 for St. John and $57,600 for St. James.

Since then, “there’s not been anything of the sort on the market,” Romalli said in a phone interview from London.

“The Last Supper” was painted between 1495 and 1498 and became an emblematic work of the Italian Renaissance. It depicts Jesus at the heightened moment he announces that one of his twelve disciples will betray him, illustrating the expressive reactions of his most ardent followers. Leonardo indicated the culprit, Judas, by painting his face in shadow.

Visitors take photos of "The Last Supper" ("Il Cenacolo" or "L'Ultima Cena"), Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci's late 15th-century mural painting housed by the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, on May 8, 2019.

Visitors take photos of “The Last Supper” (“Il Cenacolo” or “L’Ultima Cena”), Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci’s late 15th-century mural painting housed by the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, on May 8, 2019. Credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

The iconic tableau, which attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors annually before the pandemic, is housed in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. But because of its deteriorating state, it is subject to ongoing conservation efforts.

Leonardo used an experimental dry fresco technique, which left the surface fragile and prone to flaking soon after it was completed. It has since endured poor environmental conditions and multiple restoration attempts over the centuries and was almost destroyed when the church was bombed during World War II. According to Sotheby’s, early copies from Leonardo’s assistants “are a precious indication of how the masterpiece must originally have looked.”

Christie’s employees pose in front of a painting entitled Salvator Mundi by Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci at a photocall at Christie’s auction house in central London on October 22, 2017 ahead of its sale at Christie’s New York on November 15, 2017.

The drawings attributed to Boltraffio are “unusual” for their size and use of color, Romalli said.

“They are rather large works, for being on paper…so it makes them very striking,” she explained. “And then the pastel colors — that’s not something that you see often. Leonardo introduced the use of colored chalk in Italy, but it’s something which came from France.”

Two drawings from the set of 11 studies, including one that features the infamous head of Judas, reside in the collection of the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, though as the work of an unidentified artist. And in London, the Royal Academy of Arts has a full painted copy of the fresco, believed to be the work of Boltraffio and a second assistant, Giampietrino.

Boltraffio went on to carve out his own career, attracting patrons and earning commissions, including a Virgin and Child scene called “Pala Casio” in 1500, for a chapel near Bologna, which is now housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Though he was an artist who began “totally under the wing of Leonardo,” Romalli said, “he was able to develop something for himself.”

Top image caption: St. John the Evangelist with the profile of the head of St. Peter to the left, a study attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio.

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