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(Warning: spoilers ahead for episode four of season five of “The Expanse.”)

The end of the previous episode of “The Expanse” left many viewers with their jaws agape, watching Earth struck by the first of many stealth-cloaked asteroids flung at the planet by rogue OPA terrorist Marco Inaros. Episode four of the fifth season will leave most viewers with mouths open and hearts racing for the entire runtime.

Marco’s sinister attack goes undetected by Earth’s Sentinel asteroid monitors and lands near Dakar, Senegal (not South Africa, as previously thought). Complicating matters is that former U.N. Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala suspected such an attack was possible, even imminent, but was rebuffed by Admiral Felix Delgado, the only high-ranking military officer on Earth with whom she still holds a small, remaining degree of influence.

Earth’s only answer to Martian stealth tech is its Watchtower defense system — a network of advanced spy satellites Avasarala argued, in episode three, should be turned away from Mars and used to thwart what she suspects of Marco. This insistent appeal to Admiral Delgado is shot down. Whether Delgado and Avasarala could have averted disaster had Delgado listened and they found sympathetic ears at U.N. high command is unknowable, which makes the catastrophes to come sting all the more.

Crippled By Old Fears

At fault is the simple fact that too many of Earth’s politicians are still fighting the last war. In reality, the dream — and threat — of Mars is almost completely dead. Yet even as citizens of Mars flee to new worlds beyond the ring gates at breakneck speed, Earth’s leadership remains intransigently embroiled in a crippling fear and hatred of the Martian Congressional Republic, their longtime arch-rival.

While it’s frustrating to watch such failures of those placed in positions of responsibility and authority over so many, it’s a pattern that has been repeated throughout our own timeline. Old inter-generational hatreds and grievances die hard, and far too frequently blind us to new emerging threats until, as in the case of Nancy Gao’s Earth, the hour is critically, irreversibly late.

In the open space between Mars and the Belt, Bobbie and Alex trail the Barkeith, an MCR supply ship Bobbie suspects of being a key to the black-market smuggling operation they’ve been investigating. To avoid raising any alarms from those who may recognize the famous racing ship, Alex changes the Razorback’s name to The Screaming Firehawk, fulfilling one of his longstanding ambitions to name a ship.

The duo discusses their situation and how it could be possible that so many ostensibly patriotic Martians may be involved in such a dastardly scheme. When Alex questions how Bobbie is so calm and collected instead of outraged, she tells Alex she’s essentially made her peace with the fact the Mars she used to love is likely gone forever.

“So we’re building a coffin for our dying planet?” Alex asks Bobbie. “I went through the exact same thing you’re going through right now,” she responds, “and when you come out the other side of this, you’re gonna wanna be doing something that matters.”

Moments later, an emergency flight restriction from the U.N. flashes on-screen, advising Alex to expect delays if attempting to land on Earth. Investigating further and turning to breaking news broadcasts, Alex and Bobbie learn of the first asteroid to hit Earth. And that’s not all — an explosion has apparently rocked the Martian Parliament as well.

Second Chances

A beautiful sweeping shot over the Chesapeake Conservation Zone in northern Virginia centers on a severe and foreboding U.N. penitentiary known as “The Pit.” Inside, Amos uses his V.I.P. status granted by Avasarala to gain access to the lower levels, where the prison’s most dangerous inmates are housed — men and women with cybernetic body modifications. He’s granted access to the cell of Clarissa Mao, serving a life sentence for blowing up a U.N. fleet support ship in season three.

Since season four, it’s been known Mao uses her single granted monthly video call to talk to Amos. Now, Amos has shown up in person. When Amos informs her that he’s here to help, Mao informs him that “not every stain comes out.”

Then, similar to how Alex and Bobbie had their heart-to-heart interrupted, alarms blare in The Pit, and a low rumbling sound rolls into a crescendo. The lights go out. A second asteroid has struck near their location. Buried multiple floors underground, they should be safe — that is, after they make it past the dozens of mod-enhanced murderers that have been so perfectly placed in their way. If there’s a video-game-style moment Amos Burton was made for, it’s this. Next week’s episode should be quite the horror-filled ride watching them escape.

On Luna, Avasarala frantically attempts to reach anyone at Fleet Command who will listen to her dire warning that the asteroid that struck Africa was an attack. She’s interrupted by Delgado, who brings her the news of the second asteroid strike, making impact 40 kilometers northwest of Philadelphia. “At least now,” he says mournfully, “they’ll know it was an attack.”

Blackballed by most of the U.N. senior administration officials, the two struggle to reach Secretary-General Gao aboard U.N. One, until Avasarala craftily uses her former chef (Casey) to bring a tray bearing an open window of her video feed. The plan works, and Gao listens to Avasarala.

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In this grave moment, Gao puts aside her ego and her entire political history and wants to hear all the expertise she can get, immediately acting on Avasarala’s recommendation to link the Watchtower satellites to Earth’s orbital spotters. It’s a Sorkinesque moment of statesmanship and humility for a character who was hard to like and often came off smug and petulant.

Unfortunately, the moment doesn’t last long. A third asteroid hits South Asia, creating a massive shockwave in the atmosphere surrounding Gao’s plane, which is torn in two.

‘Something Is Wrong’

On Tycho Station, James Holden, Fred Johnson, and Chief Security Officer Carlos c de Baca (a.k.a. “Bull”) race to set up a trap for the still unknown entities who appear to be aware Johnson has another sample of protomolecule and want to steal it for their own purposes. Unfortunately, they’re about to fall into a trap of their own.

Noticing irregularities with the Zmeya, the ship expected to dock with Bull’s container, Holden exclaims, “something is wrong.” Then, all hell breaks loose on Tycho.

The Zmeya fires upon the container ship just as Holden tells Bull to get out of the area. Sakai, Tycho Station’s bubbly and sweet chief engineer, shoots Johnson three times in the back, flees, and spikes Tycho’s entire communications network.

OPA terrorists from Marco’s faction spring their trap. Gunfire erupts. A second rocket lands in Johnson’s private quarters, where Monica Stuart was being held for her safety. A scavenger robot has landed with one objective: find and retrieve Johnson’s sample of protomolecule for Marco Inaros.

Holden races to the scene and arrives just as Monica struggles with Sakai and the bot attempts to leave with the protomolecule. Faced with the choice between saving Monica and stopping the protomolecule sample from landing into the wrong hands — with the potential to kill billions — he chooses the latter, but fails.

As loyal Tycho security forces restore order on the station, it’s revealed that the great Fred Johnson has died from his wounds. “He deserved to finish what he was building,” Holden remarks as he stares at a wounded and distraught Bull. One can’t help thinking that when Drummer finds out that Marco is now responsible for the death of Johnson and Ashford, she will make it her life’s mission to bring him down.

Back on Luna, we find out tsunamis caused by the asteroid that struck the east coast has caused the failure of the seawalls protecting New York City, preventing contact with the U.N. Headquarters. No one is sure who is in charge on Earth according to the line of succession.

Yet, in one of the few signs of hope in the episode, we see a fourth asteroid disintegrated by Earth’s defenses before further harm can be caused. Gao’s order to reposition the Watchtowers went out in time, saving innumerable lives.

A Common Foe

The episode ends with Naomi being brought to Marco’s ship, where the OPA terrorist gives a victory speech, declaring his own version of the Monroe Doctrine and claiming the right to the ring gates and all that lies beyond for the Belt.

For a show with many excellent episodes of television to its name, episode four, “Gaugamela” ranks among its best — heart-pounding, gripping, emotional, and filled with great performances from top to bottom.

The title of the episode cleverly references Alexander the Great’s historic and decisive victory over the Persian Achaemenid Empire in 331 BC. The parallels here are striking and go far beyond the fact that Marco’s ship is named Pella (the capital of ancient Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander).

Alexander’s Macedonia, like Marco’s OPA faction, is a power seemingly on the rise and commanded by a young, charismatic leader. Outnumbered, he manages to score a major victory over a waning, formerly great power through tactical cunning and the overconfidence of his opponents. Yet, like Alexander, Marco’s own arrogance and overextension may well have laid the seeds of his undoing. Earth and Mars now have a common foe.



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Convicted fundraiser who tried to work his way into Biden’s inner circle sentenced to prison

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Amajor Democratic bundler, who raised large sums for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and consorted with Joe Biden, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what prosecutors said was a “mercenary” political influence scheme.

Imaad Zuberi, a Californian businessman was sentenced Thursday for schemes to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, then take millions of dollars for himself.

The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Assistant Attorney Daniel J. O’Brien said Zuberi was “purely a mercenary, funneling money to whomever he believed would do his bidding.”

Among the many unsealed court records, Zuberi was seen photographed with Joe Biden and Barack Obama when they were Vice President and President. He was also pictured with former President Bill Clinton and former presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. He took pictures with former Republican Rep. Paul Ryan when he was speaker of the House as well as the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Also included in the Times report was a hacked email chain released on WikiLeaks. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook messaged colleagues saying, “I’m OK taking the money and dealing with any attacks.” Jennifer Palmieri responded saying, “Take the money!”

He also attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City in 2016 as well as serving as a co-chair of The Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee.

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Zuberi made more than $950,000 in unlawful donations to the political committees of Obama, Clinton, McCain and others. Zuberi’s activities extended as far as a recent attempt to work his way into the Biden circle, according to Politico.  

In addition to the money he made, Zuberi also raised $270,000 for Hillary Clinton and $1.3 million for President Obama.

Zuberi, 50, pleaded guilty to a “three-count information charging with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)” for making false statements on a FARA filing as well as tax evasion and illegal contributions to political campaigns. He also pleaded guilty in a separate case earlier in June 2020 to a count of obstruction of justice.

“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” Assistant Attorney General for National Secretary John C. Demers said in a Department of Justice news release.

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Cruz responds to pictures of him on Mexico flight, with Texas struggling from deadly winter storm

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Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed Thursday that he flew earlier this week to Mexico with family members, following the emergence of pictures appearing to show him in an airplane cabin and at a check-in counter, as fellow residents to recover from a deadly winter storm.

Cruz said in a statement that he accompanied his daughters on a flight Wednesday night to Mexico because they had the week off with school canceled.

“Wanting to be a good dad,” said Cruz, who also stated he is returning to Texas on Thursday afternoon.

The storms has been connected to at least seven deaths in Texas and knocked out power to as many as 2.5 million residents. The number of residents without electricity as of Thursday morning was down to less than 1 million, officials said.  

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“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz also said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”

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South Carolina House passes bill that would prohibit most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected

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The South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 79-35 to pass legislation that would prohibit most abortions. 

The bill must pass through a procedural vote in the House on Thursday prior to heading to GOP Gov. Henry McMaster who has indicated that he will sign it, according to the Associated Press. Two Republicans voted against the legislation while two Democrats voted for it. The state Senate passed the measure last month. 

The bill requires doctors to carry out an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and if a heartbeat is identified an abortion can only be performed in certain circumstances.

The legislation would not penalize a woman for obtaining an unlawful abortion, though the individual responsible for performing the abortion could face consequences.

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The outlet reported that other states have approved similar or even more stringent abortion prohibitions which could be implemented if the Supreme Court throws out the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. All of the other states’ abortion bans are currently entangled by court challenges and if the South Carolina bill is approved it will likely face litigation that prevents it from going into effect, according to the AP.

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