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Defense & National Security — Russian shelling ongoing in Ukraine as winter sets in

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As Russia continues to pound Ukraine with a barrage of shelling, Kyiv claims Moscow is also planning a false flag attack on a major nuclear power plant in Belarus to gain the former Soviet state’s muscle in the war. 

We’ll share what we know about that, plus a possible new Congressional committee on China and what to expect in Russia’s attack on Ukraine as winter closes in. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you?

Ukraine: Russia planning false flag attack in Belarus

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Sunday claimed that Russia is planning a false flag attack on a major nuclear power plant in Belarus as part of an alleged effort to rope the country into its war against Ukraine

The ministry’s intelligence arm said in a release that Russian special forces were planning “several terrorist attacks” across Belarus and are targeting critical infrastructure located near European Union and Ukrainian borders, including the Ostrovets nuclear power plant near the Lithuanian border. 

Joining the fight?: “All this should accelerate the involvement of the Belarusian army in the war in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said, “as well as to create the necessary public opinion for the Kremlin in Belarusian society.” 

Ukrainian intelligence also claimed that Ukrainian people or members of NATO countries would be dressed in Belarusian military uniforms and then blamed for the attack. 

The US response: The Pentagon said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the conflict but would “not speculate on hypothetical situations.” 

Timing: The allegation came as Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been controlled by Russian forces since March, was rocked by shelling over the weekend, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame, Reuters reported. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday told NATO leaders during a video address, “We all need guaranteed protection from Russian sabotage at nuclear facilities.” 

Read the full story here 

EASTERN UKRAINE HIT WITH 400 SHELLING INCIDENTS IN SINGLE DAY 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said eastern Ukraine was hit with nearly
400 shelling incidents on Sunday alone
as Russia continues to pound the country. 

“Although there are fewer attacks today due to the deterioration of the weather, the number of Russian shelling occasions remains, unfortunately, very high,” Zelensky said in his nightly address to Ukrainians. 

“As of now, there have been almost 400 shelling occasions in the east since the beginning of the day,” the president said.  

Where the fighting is: Zelensky said “the fiercest battles” are concentrated in the Donetsk region, and that Ukrainian forces are “little by little … moving forward with battles” in the Luhansk region.  

The regions are the easternmost in Ukraine, touching the Russian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin in September moved to annex Donetsk and Luhansk, along with the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. 

The Zelensky also said Ukraine is “holding the line” in southern Ukraine, “consistently and very calculatedly destroying the potential of the occupiers.” 

Read that story here 

McCarthy planning committee on China if Speaker

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Sunday that he’ll spearhead a House select committee on China if he’s elected Speaker when the new Congress convenes next year.  

“They never once in this majority had a hearing [on] where COVID originated from … They have never stood up to China,” McCarthy said of Democrats in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” 

“When I become Speaker, I’m going to have a select committee on China,” McCarthy said, confirming long-expected plans

Setting the groundwork: Republicans are readying for majority power after winning the House by a slim margin in this month’s midterms, with plans to investigate the U.S.-Mexico border, allegations against President Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the origins of COVID-19. 

“China is the No. 1 country when it comes to intellectual property theft. All the other nations combined, China steals more than them. We will put a stop to this and no longer allow the administration to sit back and let China do what they are doing to America,” McCarthy said Sunday. 

Read more here 

FROM THE WEEKEND

Ukraine readies for cold, dangerous chapter in war  

Snowfall across Ukraine is signaling the official arrival of winter, setting up a dangerous chapter in the war with Russia as Moscow targets Ukraine’s power and energy supplies to deprive the country of heat and electricity. 

Anna Grigolaya, the operations manager in the city of Dnipro for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), said the situation will be critical for millions of Ukrainians suffering through more regular and sustained blackouts. 

“Our mission now is to prepare people for probably the worst winter in their lives,” she said.  

The Kremlin’s strategy: More than nine months since Russia’s invasion, Moscow has turned toward a strategy that targets Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and electricity supplies in an effort to destroy the country and break the will of the people.  

“This is a deliberate tactic by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a meeting of the Security Council this week.  

“He seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission. It is hard to overstate how horrific these attacks are,” she added. 

Earlier attacks: Russia launched its largest barrage of missile attacks across Ukraine earlier this week, deploying at least 96 missiles in one day. The barrage included explosive drones provided by Iran that targeted civilian infrastructure and temporarily disconnected 10 million people from power sources as temperatures began to drop.  

British Ambassador to the United Nations Barbara Woodward said at a Security Council meeting that “Russia is knowingly trying to gain military advantage by creating desperation.” 

Read that story here 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Hudson Institute will host a conversation with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), on “Exploiting Commercial Innovation to Regain Military Advantage,” at 12 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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Royal Navy to bring home puppy after tripling fundraising target

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Royal Navy aviators have raised more than £6,000 to bring a stray puppy they befriended while on deployment back to the UK to become their official mascot.

Aircrew and engineers from 845 Naval Air Squadron took in the pooch during a storm in Montenegro and named her ‘KT’.

KT was very fond of cable ties and would spend all day around the Merlin helicopter while work was carried out to replace the engine at Podgorica Military Air Base.

They now plan to bring her home to their base at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset and make her the squadron’s mascot.

The fundraising page they set up has already tripled its target of £2,000 with donations continuing to pour in.

They now plan to bring her home to their base at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset and make her the squadron’s mascot.

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William and Kate will be in same part of the US as Harry and Meghan

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As Prince William prepares for his first trip to the US since 2014, his whirlwind three day visit is likely to be a far cry from his brother Prince Harry’s day-to-day existence in California.

The Prince of Wales will be joined by Kate Middleton for the whirlwind three day trip to Boston today, where they will showcase issues including climate change, vulnerable young people, and green tech during a number of royal engagements. 

The finale of the trip will be the star-studded Earthshot Prize award ceremony on Friday, which will see A-list actors like Rami Malek and Catherine O’Hara present awards, while Billie Eilish and R&B duo Chloe x Halle will all perform.

The last time the pair visited the country was to New York in December 2014 when Kate was pregnant with Princess Charlotte. They previously visited California at the end of a tour to Canada in 2011. 

As Prince William prepares for his first trip to the US since 2014, his whirlwind three day visit is likely to be a far cry from his brother Prince Harry’s day-to-day existence in California

Meanwhile Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are far more used to the glam and glitzy Hollywood lifestyle, living in their $14 million mansion in California and regularly brushing shoulders with stars like Oprah Winfrey. 

Here FEMAIL reveals just how different life on US soil is between the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

POLITICAL PALS

Prince William and Kate Middleton

The Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to meet President Joe Biden in Boston on Friday (pictured, Kate with Dr Jill Biden last year)

The Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to meet President Joe Biden in Boston on Friday (pictured, Kate with Dr Jill Biden last year) 

Meanwhile in November, Prince William and Kate previously met President Biden at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year (pictured)

Meanwhile in November, Prince William and Kate previously met President Biden at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year (pictured)  

The Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to meet President Joe Biden in Boston on Friday, DailyMail.com exclusively revealed yesterday, as the White House and British officials work to finalize details.

Neither side will comment publicly.

But sources familiar with arrangements said the heir to the British throne and Biden are trying to make use of a scheduling quirk that puts them both in Boston on the same day.

This is the royal couple’s first overseas travel since the death of Queen Elizabeth II —when William was elevated to first in line to the throne – and their first trip to the U.S. in eight years. Back then, William met with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It will be a reunion for the two couples, who have previously met a number of times on UK soil.  

Kate previously joined Dr Jill Biden at the start of the G7 summit last summer. 

Kate, 39, cut an elegant figure in the £1,125 fuchsia midi dress from Alexander McQueen and carrying a £225 L.K. Bennett handbag that matched her shoes as she arrived to meet the President’s wife, 70, who also wore pink, for the first time.

They were meeting children aged four and five in reception class at the Connor Downs Academy near Camborne followed by a round table discussion with UK education experts convened by Kate.

The royal mother-of-three and the US First Lady discussed female empowerment, children and early education during a seminar on their shared passion for children. 

The animated pair seemed to get on like a house on fire as they met children, staff and even helped feed carrots to the class rabbit, Storm.

Meanwhile in November, Prince William and Kate previously met President Biden at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year.

Biden laughed with Prince William, and put a hand on his shoulder at the event at the popular Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, a short distance from where the climate summit was being held.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 

Angela Levin, who wrote Harry: Biography of a Prince, it is thought that Barack and Michelle, 57, never included Harry, 36, and Meghan, 40, on the 475 strong guest-list (pictured, in 2015)

Angela Levin, who wrote Harry: Biography of a Prince, it is thought that Barack and Michelle, 57, never included Harry, 36, and Meghan, 40, on the 475 strong guest-list (pictured, in 2015)

The Obamas also have a long-standing relationship with Harry, having bonded with him over his Invictus Games – for which they starred in a video with the prince and the Queen to help promote it in 2016

The Obamas have a long-standing relationship with Harry, having bonded with him over his Invictus Games – for which they starred in a video with the prince and the Queen to help promote it in 2016.

The following year Harry interviewed Barack in Toronto for his guest edit of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, during which they discussed the risks of social media and the corrosion of civil discourse.

Meghan also made a point of attending Michelle’s talk at the London Southbank Centre in December 2018, with the two women reportedly getting together backstage afterwards for a ‘power meeting’ to discuss their shared passion for girls’ education.

KENNEDY CONNECTIONS  

Prince William and Kate Middleton

During the trip to Boston, Prince William will meet Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and be given a short tour of the Museum

During the trip to Boston, Prince William will meet Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and be given a short tour of the Museum

During the whirlwind tour of Boston this week, Prince William will visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Once there, he will meet Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and be given a short tour of the Museum. 

President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot – which challenged America to put man on the moon – is the key inspiration behind The Earthshot Prize and so His Royal Highness will take the opportunity to hear more about President Kennedy’s inspirational legacy and his connections to Boston. 

During a tour of the Library and Museum, The Prince will see exhibits from the pivotal years of the Kennedy Administration in the 1960s, ahead of the moon landing in 1969. 

William will then attend a private lunch and discussion with representatives from the Founding Partner organisations of The Earthshot Prize.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 

The Sussexes are reportedly expected to attend the event, at which Robert F. Kennedy's daughter Kerry says she will honour the couple for their 'heroic' stance against the 'structural racism' of the royal family

The Sussexes are reportedly expected to attend the event, at which Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter Kerry says she will honour the couple for their ‘heroic’ stance against the ‘structural racism’ of the royal family

Royal watchers have noted that the Ripple of Hope Award Gala will be held in New York City just days later on December 6, where the Sussexes will pick up an award for their work on racial justice, mental health and causes that make a positive social impact.

The Sussexes are reportedly expected to attend the event, at which Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter says she will honour the couple for their ‘heroic’ stance against the ‘structural racism’ of the royal family.

Kerry Kennedy, one of RFK and Ethel Kennedy’s 11 children and the president of the foundation, says that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have challenged the royal family’s ‘power structure.’

Kennedy, the ex-wife of disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, told Spanish news site El Confidencial: ‘They went to the oldest institution in UK history and told them what they were doing wrong, that they couldn’t have structural racism within the institution; that they could not maintain a misunderstanding about mental health.’

She spoke about her late father’s visit to apartheid South Africa in 1966 and said that Harry and Meghan have the ‘moral courage’ that many people didn’t to discuss racial justice.

Kennedy said: ‘Few would have the courage to question their colleagues, family and community about the power structure they maintained, and this is what Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have done.’

She added that the Sussexes ‘knew that if they did this there would be consequences… and that people would blame them for it. They have done it anyway because they believed they couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t question this authority.’

‘I think they have been heroic in taking this step,’ she said.

Previous winners of the award include Presidents Joe Biden, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, former presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, Bono and Desmond Tutu. 

CELEBRITY BACKERS   

Prince William and Kate Middleton

During the Prince and Princess' visit to the US this week, they are set to host a star-studded award ceremony with celebrities from across the world - including Rami Malek

During the Prince and Princess’ visit to the US this week, they are set to host a star-studded award ceremony with celebrities from across the world – including Rami Malek 

The star-studded award ceremony will see Billie Eilish perform

The star-studded award ceremony will see Billie Eilish and R&B duo Chloe x Halle perform (pictured)

The star-studded award ceremony will see Billie Eilish (left) and R&B duo Chloe x Halle perform (right, Halle) 

During the Prince and Princess’ visit to the US this week, they are set to host a star-studded award ceremony with celebrities from across the world.

The event on Friday will see A-list actors like Rami Malek and Catherine O’Hara present awards, while Annie Lennox, Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding and R&B duo Chloe x Halle will all perform. 

Attendees of the event will include Academy Award-Winning actor Rami; actor, screenwriter and comedian Catherine and actor and advocate Shailene Woodley.

Rami said: ‘The fifteen Finalists of this year’s Earthshot Prize are deeply inspiring.

‘They are dedicating their lives to building solutions that will repair our planet, and I can’t wait to present an award to one of the incredible Winners for 2022.’

Meanwhile Catherine said: ‘Repairing our planet is one of the most important things we can do in our lifetimes.

The passion and ambition of this year’s Earthshot Finalists is much needed in a world of such turmoil, and I am truly honoured to play a role in helping them share their work with the world.’

This year’s awards will also feature performances from Annie Lennox; Billie Eilish accompanied by her brother and creative partner, FINNEAS; R&B duo Chloe x Halle and platinum selling artist and activist Ellie Goulding.

Ellie, who performed at the Prince and Princess’ wedding, said: ‘I am a big supporter of the Prince of Wales’ passion for the environment and share in The Earthshot Prize’s mission to protect and restore our planet.

‘I am particularly excited for viewers around the world to learn about the innovative solutions presented by this year’s cohort of Finalists.’

The glittering event will be hosted by award-winning broadcaster, podcaster and television presenter Clara Amfo and actor, producer and director Daniel Dae Kim.

Clara said: ‘What an honour to return for a second time to host The Earthshot Prize awards, this time from America!

‘I was so inspired by last year’s Winners, and I’m looking forward to celebrating and sharing the incredible work of the 2022 Finalists with the world.’

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 

While Prince William and Kate may have a number of celebrities attending the award ceremony this week, Prince Harry and Meghan are often surrounded by a friendship circle full of stars, including Oprah Winfrey

While Prince William and Kate may have a number of celebrities attending the award ceremony this week, Prince Harry and Meghan are often surrounded by a friendship circle full of stars, including Oprah Winfrey 

Meanwhile Meghan and Harry have also given further interviews to other celebrities while living in California - including Dax Shephard and Ellen Degeneres (pictured, Meghan with Ellen)

Meanwhile Meghan and Harry have also given further interviews to other celebrities while living in California – including Dax Shephard and Ellen Degeneres (pictured, Meghan with Ellen) 

Since Meghan launched her Archetypes podcast, she has put a number of her A-list relationships on show, including Mindy Kahling

Since Meghan launched her Archetypes podcast, she has put a number of her A-list relationships on show, including Mindy Kahling 

While Prince William and Kate may have a number of celebrities attending the award ceremony this week, Prince Harry and Meghan are often surrounded by a friendship circle full of stars.

Among them is Oprah, who has long publicly cultivated a relationship with the couple.

She has promoted the Duchess’s range of vegan coffee to her 19.2million Instagram followers, visited her mother Doria for ‘kumquats and yoga in the garden’ and even teamed up with Harry to secure an Apple TV deal.

And it is clear the royal couple must also value their bond with the hugely influential Miss Winfrey – they now live cheek by jowl with her and other high-profile stars in the celebrity-filled Montecito, California.

The couple went on to give the media mogul their first bombshell interview after stepping down as senior members of the royal family – when they accused The Firm of being racist and said Meghan had been left suicidal by the experience.

Meanwhile Meghan and Harry have also given further interviews to other celebrities while living in California – including Dax Shephard and Ellen Degeneres. 

Since Meghan launched her Archetypes podcast, she has put a number of her A-list relationships on show.

From friendly chats with Serena Williams and Mindy Kahling to discussions with Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey, Meghan has cemented her position as a friend to the stars in LA.  

GLAMOROUS EVENTS  

Prince William and Kate Middleton

As Prince William prepares for his first trip to the US since 2014, his whirlwind three day visit is likely to be a far cry from his brother Prince Harry's day-to-day existence in California (pictured with Kate Middleton)

The central purpose of the Prince and Princess’ visit to Boston is the second Earthshot Prize, which is William’s environment prize

The central purpose of the Prince and Princess’ visit to Boston is the second Earthshot Prize, which is William’s environment prize.

Inspired by Kennedy’s Moon Shot proposal in the 1960s, which put the first man on the moon and led to the development of new technology, the Earthshot Prize is set to award £50 million in rewards over 10 years.

The Duke’s environmental initiative aims to find solutions to repair and protect the planet – with five winners in 2021 being awarded £1million to support their schemes – such as projects to restore coral reefs and combat air pollution in India.

On 12 September, 1962, in a landmark speech at Rice University, President Kennedy issued a soaring challenge to the country: to land a man on the moon within a decade and bring them safely back to Earth.

In July 1969, the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed the first two human beings on the moon. Sixty years later, that ‘spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and service’ continues in Boston, said the palace. 

Each year, the Earthshot Prize aims to find and reward solutions to five ‘Earthshot’ goals – Protect and restore nature; Clean our air; Revive our oceans; Build a waste-free world; and Fix our climate.

Each winner will receive £1 million to scale their solutions.

Last year, the event took place at the Royal Albert Hall, where it was attended by Emma Thompson, Emma Watson and Ed Sheeran.

To match the event’s ethos and highlight on sustainability, Kate recycled the Alexander McQueen dress she first wore in 2011, at a Bafta reception in Los Angeles while she and Prince William were touring America as newly-weds. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 

Since moving to the US two years ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have attended a number of glitzy galas and award shows

Since moving to the US two years ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have attended a number of glitzy galas and award shows

Since moving to the US two years ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have attended a number of glitzy galas and award shows. 

Last November, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended a glamorous gala in New York City to celebrate the military on the eve of Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day in Britain.

Meghan cut a stylish figure at the ‘Salute to Freedom’ event in a show-stopping red gown by Carolina Herrera, featuring a deep neckline, pleated skirt and thigh-high split. She completed her glamorous ensemble with a pair of matching £696 slingback heels by Giuseppe Zanotti featuring crystal-embellished buckle detail.

This was accessorised with Maison Birks’ £9,934 Snowstorm earrings, a £5,000 gold Cartier Love bracelet, as well as a poppy as she attended the event on an aircraft carrier which houses the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

In a tribute to the mother-in-law she never met, Meghan also dazzled in Princess Diana’s diamond tennis Cartier bracelet, which retails for an eye-watering £17,700. She swept her long dark locks into a chic bun, drawing attention to her glamorous makeup which included dark eyeshadow and a sweep of blush.

Last November, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended a glamorous gala in New York City to celebrate the military on the eve of Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day in Britain

Last November, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended a glamorous gala in New York City to celebrate the military on the eve of Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day in Britain

Harry was in black tie, with the KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) Neck Order and Star on his bow tie. This is a medal given by the Queen in recognition of distinguished personal service to the monarchy.

Asked on the red carpet whether Meghan was proud of her husband, she replied: ‘I’m always proud of him.’

Harry, who served in the British Army for ten years, handed out medals for the Intrepid Valor Awards to five service members, veterans and military families who are living with the ‘invisible wounds of war’.

Meanwhile earlier this year, they accepted the President’s Award at the NAACP Image Awards.

Meghan sported a custom blue-ombre dress with a flowing cape from New York based black designer Christopher John Rogers with a four-ply silk custom creation, and a chiffon bust overlay. 

They accepted an award in recognition of special achievement and distinguished public service for their work helping a Texas women’s shelter, promoting vaccine equity and creating community relief centres.

Meanwhile this week, they will attend another glitzy award ceremony as they accept the ‘Ripple of Hope Award’ – an award that which Caroline Kennedy sensationally claimed was being given in a nod to their challenging the royal family’s power structure, while echoing their controversial cries of ‘racism’ within the monarchy. 

ON THE GROUND  

Prince William and Kate Middleton

The last time Kate and William visited the US, the then-Duchess of Cambridge made a big impression on a class of children in Harlem - who thought she was a princess from the Disney film Frozen

The last time Kate and William visited the US, the then-Duchess of Cambridge made a big impression on a class of children in Harlem – who thought she was a princess from the Disney film Frozen

The last time Kate and William visited the US, the then-Duchess of Cambridge made a big impression on a class of children in Harlem – who thought she was a princess from the Disney film Frozen.

Her audience of three- and four-year-olds mistook Kate for fictional royalty from the blockbuster film, according to an official at the Northside for Child Development, where she had the first official engagement of her three-day trip to New York.

Outside the building on Fifth Avenue, the regal figure crouched down on the sidewalk and accepted a bouquet of the bright red flowers from a crowd of waiting children, before she went inside and chatted to them while helping out with an art project.

The youngsters, who receive support from a Harlem-based mental health center, welcomed Kate to their institution with the cry ‘Princess’, promoting their royal visitor to smile with delight.

Frozen tells the story of Anna’s adventures with an iceman, his pet reindeer and a snowman, to find her sister Elsa whose icy powers have condemned the kingdom to winter.

Kate did not have Elsa’s flowing blonde hair or blue eyes but the children did not seem to mind.

She was accompanied by writer and poet Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of the New York City, at the public appearance, where she also wrapped Christmas presents for the children before heading off for an intimate lunch at the British Consul General’s official residence.

During this US visit, she is set to visit The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, as part of her ongoing work to elevate the importance of the early years to lifelong outcomes.

She will have a discussion with researchers about the advances in science that can be harnessed to achieve a promising future for every child.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 

Meghan Markle, 41, cut a low-key figure as she helped to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for 300 homeless women in downtown Los Angeles last week (pictured)

Meghan Markle, 41, cut a low-key figure as she helped to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for 300 homeless women in downtown Los Angeles last week (pictured)

Meanwhile both Prince Harry and Meghan have kept up with their charitable endeavours since moving to the US, and have made a number of low-key appearances with organisations on the ground.

In 2020, the Duke and Duchess were seen delivering food packages on behalf of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Project Angel Food. 

Just days ago, the Duchess cut a low-key figure as she helped to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for 300 homeless women in downtown Los Angeles last week.

The royal, 41, who is currently living in her $14 million mansion in California, donned a black baseball cap and a mint green jumper as she assisted in preparing a lunch at Downtown Women’s Center (DWC).

In a photograph shared on the Archewell Foundation website, the royal can be seen wearing a face mask and gloves as she helps to hand out slices of pumpkin pie.

It’s also likely that Meghan prepared a meal for her own family as she did last year, when she appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and revealed: ‘I love to cook, we’ll be home and just relax and sort of settle in.’ 

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A bipartisan approach to helping the homeless

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If bipartisanship really were to take hold in either the lame-duck session or the next Congress, action aimed at mitigating street homelessness would be a good place to start.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Austin, Portland, Seattle and New York face a wave of what the British call “rough sleepers,” whether in tents or on heating grates. As New York subway riders tragically learned, some are not just unhoused but unhinged — and have pushed the unwary onto the train tracks, with fatal results.

Both California Democrats and Texas Republicans should want to make common cause to help these unfortunate Americans. For too long, however, housing advocates have used their plight as an argument for more subsidized housing — on the premise that this would provide the solution.

Starting with the George W. Bush administration and continuing through the Obama and Trump years, the federal “Housing First” program operated on the premise that getting the homeless off the streets into their own apartments should get top priority — and that, once housed, the formerly homeless could make their own way.

But using the street homeless as poster persons for subsidized housing generally overlooks the extent to which they are troubled by mental illness or substance abuse, rather than housing market failure and high rents alone. A Los Angeles Times review of that city’s 2019  “point in time” street survey of the homeless found that some “76 percent of individuals living outside on the streets reported being, or were observed to be, affected by mental illness, substance abuse, poor health or a physical disability.”

Residents of big cities will not be surprised — but would be dismayed — by the magnitude of the problem. There are a reported 69,000 street homeless in Los Angeles, at least 12,000 in Seattle, 10,000 in San Jose, Calif., 7,800 in San Francisco, and 7,600 in San Diego. (New York tops the list with 77,000 — although most of those are in the city’s often-squalid shelters and include many single mothers and children in family shelters.)

The street homeless, especially, need help that must go beyond housing, to include treatment of the sort that long-shuttered state psychiatric hospitals once offered, however ineffectively. Treatment plus housing are the goals of Republican-backed legislation that languished in the last Congress but deserves a hearing and Democratic consideration.

The proposed “Housing PLUS Act”  by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) builds on an October 2020 report issued by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which found that Housing First had not stemmed the surge in street homelessness. That report included data that, despite increased homeless housing, “unsheltered homelessness increased 20.5 percent from 175,399 in 2014 to 211,293 in 2019. … Despite significant increases in funding and beds, overall homelessness has been increasing in the United States.”

In the wake of the pandemic, cities more than ever need the will and the resources to get to the roots of street homelessness.

The Barr legislation would not end homeless housing spending but would lift existing constraints on augmenting it with so-called “wraparound services” — whether treatment for addiction or schizophrenia or both, which are not uncommon in tent cities. This would enable federal support for so-called “supportive housing,” which combines an inside bed with treatment, rather than operating on the premise that, once housed, the homeless will be able to make their own way without further help.

This should not be taken to mean that addressing street homelessness is primarily, or only, a matter of federal funding. There was a time when states spent heavily on psychiatric beds; in the 1950s, California had some 55,000 such places. Today, it has only around 5,000. Similar declines occurred in every state thanks to  “deinstitutionalization” — sadly followed by few replacement community facilities.

Medicaid policy made the matter worse by barring support for any large psychiatric hospital. Washington did not want to fill the funding gap being created by the states. The tragic result is visible on our streets.

Localities must do their own part. Underutilized post-pandemic big-city office buildings and hotels could be converted to supportive housing, if local zoning is adjusted. Public order policing could be invoked to clear the streets and sidewalks. Political will, as well as funding, matters.

There is at least some reason to believe such bipartisan will could be mustered. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, seen by some as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, has set a modest but seemingly achievable goal of reducing street homelessness by 2 percent by 2024, saying, “Californians demand accountability and results, not settling for the status quo.” Newsom has pushed for hotel conversions to house the homeless — and less restrictive federal funding could help such efforts.

The fact that Republicans from red states are even taking an interest in street homelessness should be taken by Democrats as an important starting point for bipartisanship. Tent cities dot D.C. not far from the Capitol — and relocating and assisting their unfortunate residents would be a sign that our politics can both work and make a positive difference.

Howard Husock is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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