February 2018 News Reports




Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative February 2018 news and views

Feb. 28

White House Bombshells

hope hicks strategic communications directorNew York Daily News, Longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks announces resignation as White House communications director, Staff report, Feb. 28, 2018. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks said Wednesday that she was planning to resign, a new report says. The 29-year-old Hicks (pictured) made the sudden announcement a day after she testified before a House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Hicks refused to answer questions about her time in the White House or during the transition, but she did admit to telling white lies on behalf of the President.

“There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump,” Hicks said. “I wish the President and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country.” Hope Hicks admits to telling white lies for President Trump

A former model with no experience in politics, Hicks was considered one of Trump’s most trusted and loyal aides. She was expected to leave her post in the next few weeks. It was not clear what she would do next. Hope Hicks (pictured) was considered one of Trump’s most trusted and loyal aides.
Hope Hicks was considered one of Trump’s most trusted and loyal aides.

hope hicks tux japan 2017 CustomHicks (shown at a formal dinner in Japan last year) was the seventh person named as the White House communications director. She shunned the spotlight and largely remained out of view, but her last few weeks were among the most tumultuous of her time at the White House.

Hicks came under fire earlier in the month after it was revealed that she helped coordinate the administration’s fierce pushback against reports that staff secretary Rob Porter abused his two ex-wives. Hicks was dating Porter at the time. Porter resigned a day after one of his exes released a photo showing her battered face. On his way out, he still insisted that the claims were lies.

Hicks and Porter later split. Hicks’ resignation, first reported by the New York Times, prompted Trump to release an effusive statement lauding her work. “Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Trump said. “She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Officials in four countries discussed manipulating Jared Kushner, Shane Harris, Carol D. Leonnig, Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 28, 2018 (print edition). Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.

It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.

Kushner’s interim security clearance was downgraded last week from the top-secret to the secret level, which should restrict the regular access he has had to highly classified information, according to administration officials.

Related story: ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner’s Security Level Downgraded, Official Says, Katie Rogers and Michael D. Shear, Feb. 28, 2018 (print edition). Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been stripped of his high-level security clearance after months of delays in completing an exhaustive background check, limiting his ability to view highly classified information, a White House official and another person familiar with Mr. Kushner’s situation said.

john kelly o dhsMr. Kushner has had his top-secret clearance reduced to secret and his portfolio, specifically in regard to foreign affairs, is expected to be reduced, the people said. The news was first reported by Politico. The move comes after John F. Kelly (shown above left), the White House chief of staff, recently moved to overhaul the security clearance process at the White House after Rob Porter, President Trump’s staff secretary, resigned amid allegations of spousal abuse.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Jared Kushner has been humiliated. Will Trump now throw him under the bus? Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Feb. 28, 2018. Officials in four countries discussed ways to manipulate Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Jared Kushner should be very nervous. Rather than take heat for protecting his son-in-law, President Trump left the disposition of Kushner’s security clearance up to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. On Tuesday, Kelly dealt Kushner a humiliating setback. There are several takeaways from the latest revelations. First, the reason Kushner was denied a clearance is critical and goes to whether he should be in the White House at all..

Inside Washington

Axios, Analysis: Why Hope leaving matters, Jonathan Swan, Feb. 28, 2018. President Trump trusted nobody like Hope (or “Hopey” as he calls her.) It’s become a cliche that he views her like a daughter, but those who’ve watched them together say it’s true.

Why it matters: Trump will miss her in the same way he misses former bodyguard Keith Schiller. Hicks is family and has been part of his routine for nearly three years now. Trump increasingly finds himself working in a building populated by people he doesn’t know and doesn’t trust; some of whom did not even vote for him.

She never appeared on TV; always stayed behind the scenes. But reporters like me — I’ve dealt with Hicks professionally for 2.5 years now — know her as the person who understands Trump the best.

Hick’s colleagues say her decision is the accumulation of six months of terribleness. She has always hated Washington, and never made it her home. She never wanted to make friends here and never trusted anybody outside of the small group of people she befriended inside the White House. Any spare moment she had, she traveled to Connecticut and New York to spend time with family and old friends.

What kept her in Washington was simple: Donald J. Trump. She was totally loyal to him and some colleagues believe she’d become a crutch for him.

But her leaving is no surprise to her colleagues. For somebody who wanted to stay behind the scenes, the constant coverage of her — whether it be the Rob Porter crisis or the Russia investigation — made her life hell, her colleagues say. One colleague told me she could never get used to how provincial Washington was. Nobody in New York bothers her when she walks the streets of Manhattan, but in DC she gets “spotted” at restaurants and chased by paparazzi.

ny times logodjt official portraitNew York Times, ‘Disgraceful’: Trump Attacks Sessions Over Wiretap Inquiry, Eileen Sullivan, Feb. 28, 2018. President Trump scolded Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for suggesting that the Justice Department’s inspector general would look into accusations of jeff sessions ag osurveillance abuses.

The tweet was the latest example of Mr. Trump publicly criticizing Mr. Sessions (shown at left) and wading into Justice Department investigations. In a 43-word tweet, Mr. Trump scolded the attorney general, belittled the role of the Justice Department’s independent watchdog and pressured the agency to speed up its investigations. Mr. Sessions, who rarely reacts publicly to the president’s insults, defended the Justice Department in a statement hours later.

washington post logohope hicks strategic communications directorWashington Post, Analysis: Hicks’s evasiveness highlights how far Trump is pushing the envelope on executive privilege, James Hohmann, Feb. 28, 2018. Fights over executive privilege are not new, but experts and veterans of past administrations say the president appears to be pushing the limits further than his predecessors and beyond what legal precedents allow.

washington post logodjt official portraitWashington Post, Trump says bump stocks are ‘gone’; he may use executive order to ban device, Feb. 28, 2018. At a White House summit with lawmakers to discuss school safety and guns, Trump said of bump stocks: “I’m going to write that out. We can do that by executive order.” A bump stock is used to modify a gun to simulate automatic fire.

Probes Of Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Legal defense fund for Trump aides launches amid questions about donor transparency, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Feb. 28, 2018. There are still unanswered questions about how the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust will disclose contributors.

republican elephant logoPalmer Report, Opinion: Paul Manafort just backed the Republican Party into a no-win corner, Bill Palmer, Feb. 28, 2018,  The Republican Party was already heading into a no-win situation when it comes to the midterm congressional elections in November. Donald Trump is historically unpopular, his scandals are getting uglier by the day, names of certain Republican Congressman are now showing up in Trump-Russia indictments, and a whole lot of Republicans in Congress have already announced they won’t even bother to run for reelection. Now Paul Manafort of all people has just made things even uglier for the GOP.

Manafort (shown at left in adjoining photo) has been charged with dozens of felonies, and his longtime sidekick Rick Gates (shown above right) has agreed to testify against him, but – for the moment at least – Manafort is still planning to stubbornly take his chances at trial. Today the judge in the case announced that Manafort’s trial will begin in September of this year. That means the trial will be unfolding just as the congressional races are reaching their peak. Now we know that the trial will include Trump’s deputy campaign chairman Gates testifying about crimes that were committed by Trump campaign officials before, during and after the campaign.

That’s not remotely tenable for the GOP. It can’t go into the 2018 election cycle, which is already a referendum on Trump’s corruption and unpopularity, with a Trump-Russia criminal trial dominating the news every day. But what other option do they have? Even if the GOP could somehow convince Manafort to cut a plea deal instead of going to trial, that would just mean that Manafort would have to turn over evidence of Trump’s guilt, which would make things even uglier heading into the midterms.

More School Shooting Reaction

ny times logoNew York Times, A Top Retailer Halts All Sales of Assault-Style Weapons, Julie Creswell, Feb. 28, 2018. Dick’s, a leading sporting goods chain, said that it would immediately end sales of all assault-style rifles, and that it would not sell any gun to anyone under 21. The announcement is one of the strongest stances taken by corporate America in the national gun debate.

Misleading War-Mongering Yet Again At NY Times?

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: New York Times Time Warps Back To 2002: New Bogus WMD Claims Made, b, Feb. 28, 2018.

ny times logoThe column below by the media critic “b” (a pen name) analyzes the front-page, left-hand lead story in the New York Times story of Feb. 27 2018: “U.N. Links North Korea to Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program by its United Nations reporter Michael Schwirtz:. “North Korea has been shipping supplies to the Syrian government that could be used in the production of chemical weapons, United Nations experts contend….The supplies from North Korea include acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers, according to a report by United Nations investigators….The possible chemical weapons components were part of at least 40 previously unreported shipments by North Korea to Syria between 2012 and 2017 of prohibited ballistic missile parts and materials that could be used for both military and civilian purposes, according to the report, which has not been publicly released but which was reviewed by The New York Times.”

UN logoThe valves, thermometers and acid resistance tiles Syria may have sought to acquire could be used for medical facilities, the production of candy or for dozens of other civilian purposes. They could be used to produce something for the military with chemical weapons probably being the most unlikely.

But like the discredited aluminum tube story, the current NYT piece, written by its UN reporter Michael Schwirtz, obfuscates the doubts about WMD connections of the issue. It makes false claims and is full of war-mongering assertions by hawkish figures. It is a scare story constructed to vilify various opponents to U.S. hegemony on meager factual grounds.

The reporter does not understand the issue he writes about. The “possible chemical weapons components” are not such. Chemical weapons obviously do not contain valves, thermometers or acid resistance tiles. To increase the “be afraid” effect of his piece the author mentions an alleged 2007 accident “in which several Syrian technicians, along with North Korean and Iranian advisers, were killed in the explosion of a warhead filled with sarin gas and the extremely toxic nerve agent VX.” No weapon designer ever thought of “a warhead” that was filled with both – Sarin and VX. That would be lunacy and reports thereof are obviously bogus.

The “United Nations investigators” are a bunch of spooks selected by individual Security Council members who collect claims of North Korean breaches of sanctions. The group was set up in 2006 under the UN Security Council resolution 1718 as a “Committee of the Security Council consisting of all the members of the Council”. The Committee is not part of the UN bureaucracy and they are not “UN experts” or “UN investigators”. The reports of the committee list various claims made by single UN member countries without judging their veracity.

The New York Times discredited itself over its support for the false Bush administration claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It later issued a lame mea culpa and fired one reporter while the responsible editors and managers stayed on.

The paper has obviously not changed. It is again creating false pretexts for wars by publishing unobjective, one sided and intended-to-scare pieces about alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Global News: Assassination

olof palmeSwedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (shown at right) was assassinated on the 28th of February 1986 in what remains as one of the Western world’s leading unsolved assassinations. On the anniversary, one of Sweden’s leading newspapers explores the case.

From Wikipedia: Assassination of Olof Palme. On Friday, 28 February 1986, Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, was fatally wounded by a single gunshot while walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen. Mrs Palme was slightly wounded by a second shot. The couple did not have bodyguards at the time.

Christer Pettersson, who previously had been convicted of manslaughter, was convicted of the murder in 1988 after having been identified as the killer by Palme’s wife. However, on appeal to Svea Court of Appeal he was acquitted. A petition for a new trial, filed by the prosecutor, was denied by the Supreme Court of Sweden. Pettersson died in late-September 2004, legally declared not guilty of the Palme assassination. The case remains unsolved.

SVT Nyheter (Sweden), Investigation: How the Palme Investigation was Manipulated – witness heard 43 times and changed their story, Staff report, March 1, 2018. How did Christer Pettersson become the main suspect in the hunt for Olof Palme’s killer? Mission Investigate has spoken to three people who had central positions in the Palme investigation claiming that there was witness manipulation. For instance, one of the most important witnesses was heard more than 40 times – and changed their story completely over time.

No study of the work of the Palme Commission, not even the government’s exhaustive investigation, has so far been able to explain how Christer Pettersson – an addict from Rotebro – became the main suspect. But in every version provided by Thure Nässén, the investigator who was instrumental in naming Pettersson a suspect, there is one common denominator: drug dealer Sigge Cedergren.

Feb. 27

Florida Shooting Fallout

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Former. Australian Prime Minister: Why not change the Second amendment?, Chuck Todd, Feb. 27, 2018 (7:24 mins.). Former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, joins MTP Daily to discuss what the United States can learn from Australia’s gun laws.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump gets a lesson on federalism as governors push back on arming teachers, James Hohmann, Feb. 27, 2018. President Trump looked annoyed as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) spoke out against an idea that has become Trump’s hobbyhorse since the Florida massacre. The back-and-forth that followed at the White House was a reminder that states remain the laboratories of democracy.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: President Trump, again, overcompensates for cowardice, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Feb. 27, 2018. President Trump said he thinks he would have “run” into the school in Parkland, Fla., during the shooting. Here’s how he’s fared in the face of danger before.

President Trump is not known for personal courage. He used “bone spurs” to get out of military service in Vietnam. He’ll fire people, but not if he has to confront the person directly. When caught saying or doing something he shouldn’t (e.g., mocking a reporter with a disability, calling African countries “shitholes,” calling Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous,” etc.), he figuratively flees the scene by either denying what he said, or pretending it was a joke. And, for whatever reason, he will bend over backwards to avoid offending Russian President Vladimir Putin.

So when he declared on Monday that, had he been at the site of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” he was widely derided on social media.

Lacking a service record of his own, he repeatedly feels compelled to equate military service with other conduct (e.g. sexual promiscuity, military school). He longs to be in the company of military men, but fails to understand the ethos of the American military. His efforts to project manly strength are laughable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida sheriff faces intensifying political scrutiny, calls to resign in wake of school shooting, Michael Scherer, Aaron C. Davis and Mark Berman, Feb. 27, 2018 (print edition). Republican lawmakers have called for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to be suspended from his job.

Legal Talk Network, Opinions: Florida School Shooting: Gun Legislation, Mental Health, and Prevention, Hosts: Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams, Feb. 27, 2018. Attorney Stephen P. Halbrook and professor John J. Donohue III discuss the Parkland school shooting, mental health, gun legislation and gun control, and what can be done to prevent future mass shootings.

On February 14, 2018, a shooter opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 and wounding many. We have covered mass shootings over the years here on Lawyer 2 Lawyer. From Sandy Hook to Orlando, and most recently Las Vegas, Mass shootings seem to be becoming the new normal. Gun advocates voice their concerns over a growing problem of individuals with mental health issues, where the anti-gun movement calls for stricter regulations and legislation when it comes to the purchasing of guns.

On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, hosts Bob Ambrogi and Craig Williams join attorney Stephen P. Halbrook, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, and professor John J. Donohue III from Stanford Law School, as they discuss this recent tragedy, mental health, gun legislation and gun control, and what can be done to prevent future mass shootings.

John J. Donohue III: If you go to the NRA website, you can see posters of targets covered with bullet holes and a gun over banners and group therapy. And so this was something that the 19-year-old Florida shooter was very moved by and shared on his Instagram account. And as you see the efforts to promote sales of AR-15s, there’s very much a tendency to try to claim that this is going to restore your manliness and Bushmaster had and had that touted their rifle with the slogan, Consider Your Man Card Reissued.

So there’s been a real effort on the part of the gun industry to try to invigorate sales of these high-powered weapons and we simply did not have that happening years ago and that certainly contributes to the problem. Every country in the world has the same level of underlying mental illness that we have but we have two things that most other modern industrialized nations don’t have, which is access to the most high-powered weaponry, coupled with allowing the citizenry to sort of marinate and these aggressive images of how guns are going to make you manly and they are going to protect you and you need all this firepower.

And just the idea that guns are a solution to your daily problems, which again is so much that the mythology the gun industry puts out there is a bad message for people with mental illness to be hearing.

More On Trump Family Probes, Denials

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump-linked crime syndicate to world: “Ignore Us!” Wayne Madsen, Feb. 27, 2018. Author, columnist and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Wayne has compiled a chart (puiblished separately) showing the relationships of more than two thousand Trump, Kushner, Manafort and other corporate entitities.

ivanka trump twitter portraitIvanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter (shown in a Twitter photo), was asked in an interview there about the sexual misconduct allegations against her father. She said, “I think I have that right as a daughter to believe my father.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ivanka Trump Calls Question About Father’s Sexual Misconduct ‘Inappropriate,’ Niraj Chokshi, Feb. 26, 2018. Should the women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct be believed? That’s a question that his elder daughter and White House senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, believes she should not be asked.

“I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he’s affirmatively stated that there’s no truth to it,” Ms. Trump told the NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander in an interview that aired on NBC’s “Today” on Monday.

Ms. Trump had been in South Korea since Friday, leading the United States delegation at the Winter Olympics. In a wide-ranging interview there on Sunday, Mr. Alexander asked her, “Do you believe your father’s accusers?”

“I don’t think that’s a question you would ask many other daughters,” she said. “I believe my father. I know my father. So, I think I have that right as a daughter to believe my father.”

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Hope Hicks reportedly admits telling ‘white lies’ for Trump, Lawrence O’Donnell, Feb. 27, 2018. Hope Hicks reportedly told House investigators she is required to tell white lies as part of her job in the Trump W.H. Jill Wine-Banks reacts and Natasha Bertrand joins Lawrence O’Donnell with new reporting on Wikileaks’ contacts with Trump associate Roger Stone.

ny times logoNew York Times, Melania Trump Parts Ways With Adviser Amid Backlash Over Inaugural Contract, Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 27, 2018 (print edition). The first lady, Melania Trump, has parted ways with an adviser after news about the adviser’s firm reaping $26 million in payments to help plan President Trump’s inauguration.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who has been friends with Mrs. Trump for years, had been working on a contract basis as an unpaid senior adviser to the office of the first lady.

Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman, said the office had “severed the gratuitous services contract with Ms. Wolkoff,” who Ms. Grisham said had been employed as “a special government employee” to work on specific projects. “We thank her for her hard work and wish her all the best.”

The contract was terminated last week, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

They said the move was prompted by displeasure from the Trumps over the news, first reported by The New York Times, that a firm created by Ms. Winston Wolkoff was paid nearly $26 million for event planning by a nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017.

GOP Judges Take Power

ny times logoNew York Times, We All Must Live With Mitch McConnell’s Proudest Moment, Editorial board, Feb. 27, 2018 (print edition).  A Supreme Court case on public-sector unions is a reminder of why it matters how Justice Neil Gorsuch landed on the court.

Inside the White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. to target opioid manufacturers, distributors in push to curb deadly epidemic, Lenny Bernstein, Katie Zezima and Sari Horwitz​, Feb. 27, 2018. “Opioid abuse is driving the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday while announcing the creation of a task force.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hope Hicks resists House investigators’ questions about the Trump administration, Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 27, 2018.  The White House communications director refused to answer any questions about events and conversations that occurred since President Trump took office, according to a Republican lawmaker.

Feb. 26

ny times logoxi jinping with flag CustomNew York Times, Startling Power Grab Would Let Xi Rule China Indefinitely, Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher, Feb. 26, 2018 (print edition).  The surprise move to end the two-term limit on presidents is the boldest yet by President Xi Jinping (shown in a file photo) as he seeks to strengthen control over a modernizing society and restore China to what he considers its rightful place as a global power.

Many critics see it as part of a global trend of strongmen casting aside constitutional checks, like Vladimir V. Putin in Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.

donald trump gage skidmoreRoll Call, Trump Again Criticizes Police Over Florida School Massacre, John T. Bennett, Feb. 26, 2018. President: I would have confronted gunman ‘even if I didn’t have a weapon.’ President Donald Trump again on Monday criticized Florida law enforcement officers who did not enter the Parkland high school where a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people earlier this month.

“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” the president told a group of Republican and Democratic governors during a summit on a range of issues at the White House. He called it “disgusting” that a handful of officers who responded to the shooting quickly did not immediately storm the school. (Editor’s note: In the 1960s, Trump obtained five deferments from the Vietnam War draft based on a claim of bone spurs but has been quoted as saying he cannot remember which foot was claimed to have had the condition.)

Trump (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) on Friday called one of those officers who has since resigned, Scot Peterson, a “coward.”

Three days later, he said all the officers who remained outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while Nikolas Cruz repeatedly fired his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.”

The president also revealed he had lunch with National Rifle Association leaders over the weekend, including chief executive Wayne LaPierre. “Don’t worry about the NRA,” Trump said. “They’re on our side.”

Oligarch Puppetry Case Study: Amazon.com’s Military, Newspaper, Consumer Ties

washington post logoWashington Post, How Jeff Bezos was selected for, but never joined, the Defense Innovation Board, Christian Davenport and Dan Lamothe, Feb. 26, 2018. (print edition). The list of luminaries selected for the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory council designed to help the Defense Department become more technologically adept and efficient, included some of the country’s most distinguished entrepreneurs, thinkers and innovators.

jeff bezos w Encore awards 2010There was Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrated astrophysicist, and Marne Levine, chief operating officer of Instagram. There was also Jeffrey P. Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post (and shown in a 2010 file photo from an Encore Awards ceremony)..

But Bezos never officially joined the board, the Pentagon acknowledged for the first time in response to questions from The Post. An occasional target of President Trump’s tweets, the Amazon chief executive faced questions about his company’s business ties to the government and his need to apply for a security clearance.

when Jim Mattis became defense secretary in the Trump administration, those selected for the board were asked to submit paperwork to gain a security clearance. Given Bezos’s wealth, business interests and holdings, getting a clearance probably would have been an arduous process. Also complicating the matter were concerns over the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Amazon Web Services has a $600 million cloud computing contract with the CIA.

The Pentagon also is getting close to awarding a cloud computing contract of its own, one that could be worth billions of dollars over many years. Many rivals in the industry have already complained that AWS has the inside track for that contract, though the Pentagon has vowed to hold “a full and open competition.” In addition, Blue Origin, Bezos’s rocket company, has plans to compete for national security launch contracts, company officials have said.

Impacts Of GOP Tax Cut

ny times logodjt official portraitNew York Times, Opinion: Well-Heeled Investors Reap the Tax Cut Bonanza, Editorial board, Feb. 26, 2018 (print edition). Businesses are buying back stock to boost prices, giving dividends and pursuing mergers, not raising wages.

washington post logoWashington Post, As GOP tax cuts take hold, Democrats struggle for line of attack, Erica Werner​, Feb. 26, 2018. Americans have started to see a bump in their paychecks, and a spate of polls show public opinion turning in favor of the legislation. Democrats heading into the 2018 elections face the tough task of figuring out how to convince voters that the law will be bad for the country later.

Supreme Court Agenda Today

supreme court buildingny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Consequences of Judicial Activism on the Supreme Court, Moshe Z. Marvit, Feb. 26, 2018 (print edition). Justices might impose right to work on all public employees — and cause chaos for their workplace issues.

neil gorsuch circuit portraitUpdate: Roll Call, Supreme Court Appears Split on Union Case, Todd Ruger, Feb 26, 2018. Case about dues could have a far-reaching impact on labor unions.

Justice Neil Gorsuch (shown at right) likely holds the key vote in a major labor case that drew dueling protests outside the Supreme Court building for Monday’s oral arguments, but he did nothing to tip his hand about his thinking. Gorsuch did not ask a question during an hour of arguments, while the other eight justices appeared to be equally split along ideological lines. The case asks the justices to overturn a decades-old precedent and deal a financial blow to the unions that represent teachers and other public-sector employees. The justices are expected to rule on the case before the end of the term in June.

Gorsuch is considered a reliably conservative justice, but his silence Monday will keep experts guessing about whether he will side with the conservative wing of the court and overturn a 1971 ruling that allows unions to collect those fees.

washington post logoWashington Post, This man’s battle with a Florida city will bring him to the Supreme Court. It’s not the first time, Robert Barnes, Feb. 26, 2018 (print edition). Fane Lozman’s latest legal tussle with the town of Riviera Beach has grown from a ham-handed attempt to cut him off at a city council meeting into a free-speech showdown that will have nationwide implications for citizens arrested — as Lozman was — by government officials they criticize.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court declines to enter controversy over ‘dreamers,’ Robert Barnes, Feb. 26, 2018.  Lower courts had kept in place the program that protects undocumented immigrants brought here as children from deportation. President Trump announced in September that he would let the program expire in March, unless Congress acted. Efforts on Capitol Hill to revive the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as part of a broader deal on immigration policy failed this month.

More Shooting Fallout

ny times logoNew York Times, Sheriff’s Deputy Defends Actions in Florida Shooting, Denying He Was a ‘Coward,’ Patricia Mazzei, Feb. 26, 2018. The only armed sheriff’s deputy on campus during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., disputed on Monday that he violated police protocol by not entering the building to hunt down the gunman, and rebuked the sheriff for portraying him as a “coward.”

Scot Peterson, a former deputy with the Broward County sheriff’s office, said in a statement released by his lawyer that he thought the gunfire originated from outside and reacted accordingly by waiting for the suspect there.

The sheriff’s office “trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek cover and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes to other law enforcement,” said Mr. Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph A. DiRuzzo III.

His statement appeared to contradict the sheriff, Scott Israel, who said last week that Mr. Peterson should have immediately charged the building instead of taking a position outside for more than four minutes while the shooting was taking place. Sheriff Israel characterized Mr. Peterson’s inaction as doing “nothing.”

Health Care

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Are Hospitals Becoming Obsolete? Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Feb. 26, 2018 (print edition). More patients can be treated at home or in doctors’ offices, and that’s a good thing.

Syria War Update

SouthFront, Syrian War Report: Tiger Forces Start Ground Operation In Eastern Ghouta, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2018 (2:55 mins. video). On Feb. 25, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies started a ground phase of their operation against militants in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

ny times logoUN logoNew York Times, Syria Cease-Fire Must Take Effect Immediately, U.N. Chief Warns, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Feb. 26, 2018.  As bombs continued to rain down on the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta on Monday, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, demanded that the Syria cease-fire resolution that the Security Council adopted unanimously over the weekend take effect immediately.

Former Trump Aide Slams Reporters

sebastian gorka fox croppedReporters Without Borders, Weekly Roundup: Former Trump adviser insults, threatens, and shoves journalists at CPAC, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2018. During the first two days of the Conservative Political Action Conference that began February 22 in Oxen Hill, Maryland, Sebastian Gorka, a former White House advisor to President Trump shown in a file screenshot, attacked and insulted reporters that he believed were “irrelevant,” “fake news,” or that he believed to be unpatriotic.

On Feb. 22 during the conference, a video showing Gorka physically assaulting Mediaite reporter Caleb Ecarma by shoving him and then telling him to “f**k off” went viral on Twitter. After the video was shared, multiple reporters from liberal news outlet ThinkProgress tried to ask Gorka questions about the assault, but he wouldn’t acknowledge the reporters. He did however talk to a conservative-leaning news organization called the Daily Signal.

That same day, Freedom of the Press Foundation came into possession of an audio recording of Gorka telling a journalist, “you are the epitome of fake news. You are wasting your time here, cause we’re patriots here. We don’t want to destroy the country, or hang out with people like yourself who don’t like this country.”

Gorka left his White House position in August 2017 and resumed his prior role at Breitbart News as an editor for national security affairs. He is currently a national security analyst at Fox News. According to the US Press Freedom Tracker of which RSF is a partner, there have been at least three physical attacks against journalists in 2018, the most recent targeting PIX11 reporter Howard Thompson and photographer John Frasse on February 6.

Investigation of Trump

hope hicks strategic communications directorPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s allies tip off that Hope Hicks may be cutting a deal with Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Feb. 26, 2018. Numerous major news outlets are reporting today that Donald Trump’s White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is being called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. If you’ve been paying attention all along to the Trump-Russia scandal and investigation, you know that this does not at all mean what it sounds like on the surface. Instead the established pattern tells us that Trump’s allies on the committee think Hicks is working with, or is about to cut a deal with, Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Back when Steve Bannon signaled that he was ready to sell out Trump to Robert Mueller, the various congressional committees investigating Trump-Russia all decided to back off Bannon.

That was, of course, with the singular exception of the House Intel Committee. It’s run by Trump puppet Devin Nunes, and despite the protests of the Democrats on the committee, its “Trump-Russia probe” is nothing more than a sham aimed at keeping Trump in the loop about Mueller’s investigation. The committee tried (and failed) to force Bannon to reveal what he was about to tell Mueller, before Bannon ultimately went ahead and told everything to Mueller.

So now that the House Intel Committee is tapping Hope Hicks on the shoulder, there is only one way to interpret this: Trump’s allies on that committee are once again trying to figure out what Hicks is telling the legitimate investigators. The twist here is that Hicks already spent two full days testifying for Robert Mueller awhile back, which makes things a bit different than the Bannon situation.

By hauling in Hope Hicks right now, the House Intel Committee is tipping off that it thinks or fears Hicks is about to cut a deal with Mueller – and it’s trying to learn what Hicks is preparing to tell Mueller, so Donald Trump can begin playing defense against it.

Feb. 25

Nuclear Diplomacy
washington post logoiran negotiations flickrWashington Post, European allies scramble to satisfy Iran nuclear deal’s critic in chief, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 25, 2018.  France, Germany and Britain have been striving to convince President Trump that they want to join him in cracking down on bad Iranian behavior in hopes of preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement that he has railed against. But even if the European allies and administration officials can forge a deal, there is no guarantee that it will placate the mercurial president.

For the three leading European allies, outright U.S. withdrawal or insistence on a rewrite that they — let alone Iran and fellow signatories Russia and China — have said they will never accept could spark the most serious international rift with the administration to date. A Flickr photo above shows a negotiating session on the nuclear deal between Iran and other powers during the Obama administration.

Florida School Mass Shooting

school shooting Custom

Students evacuate the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida following a massacre

washington post logoscott israel broward sheriff CustomWashington Post, Florida lawmakers call for suspension of sheriff as he defends ‘amazing leadership,’ Drew Harwell and Mark Berman, Feb. 25, 2018. The Florida House speaker and 73 Republican colleagues urged Gov. Rick Scott to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who has faced intensifying questions about his office’s response to the school shooting. A defiant Israel (shown in a screenshot) said, “I can only take responsibility for what I knew about.”

Another Trump Crony Headed For DC?

washington post logofaa logoWashington Post, Trump’s personal pilot ‘in the mix’ to lead the FAA, John Wagner, Feb. 25, 2018. White House official said John Dunkin, who flew Trump around the country on a Boeing 757 during the 2016 campaign, is on the administration’s shortlist to head the agency that regulates civil aviation in the United States.

Dems Diss Sen. Feinstein

washington post logodianne feinsteinWashington Post, Dianne Feinstein loses California Democratic Party’s endorsement as she bids for fifth term in Senate, David Weigel, Feb. 25, 2018. Feinstein’s more liberal challenger, state Senate leader Kevin de León, won the majority of convention delegates’ support, setting up a June primary that could define what the Democratic Party stands for in the age of Trump.

Just 37 percent of delegates to the statewide convention, held this year in San Diego, backed Feinstein (shown at right) in her bid for a fifth full term. More than 54 percent backed de León, who entered the race in October and has run to Feinstein’s left on health care, taxes and immigration.

UN ‘Ceasefire’ In Syria

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria – The UNSC Mandated Ceasefire Will Not Hold, b, Feb. 25, 2018. Last night the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2401 demanding a 30 day ceasefire in all of Syria. The text of the adopted resolution does not seem to be available yet. A copy of the original draft resolution is here. The Russian government had offered several amendments to it. It demanded that the U.S. side guarantees that the enemies of the Syrian state would stick to such a ceasefire.

The resolution was initiated by Sweden and Kuwait on behalf of the U.S. It follows after preparation by the Syrian army to liberate the east-Ghouta area next to the capital Damascus had reached a critical point. East-Ghouta is occupied by several terrorist groups including al-Qaeda and militant Salafist groups. Together they have for years been sponsored to harass the 7 million inhabitants of the capital with random mortar and missile attacks. The U.S. initiated a propaganda campaign to “save Ghouta” because it wants to keep the threat from Ghouta towards the Syrian capital alive. The ceasefire does not apply to Al-Qaeda, ISIS and associated terrorist groups. The war against them will continue. In east-Ghouta al-Qaeda (HTS) is allied with Failaq al-Rahman.


washington post logoomarosa celebrity big brotherWashington Post, Omarosa gets evicted from the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ house, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Feb. 25, 2018. It was a headline-making ride for the reality star-turned-White House staffer who was bounced during the two-hour finale that included — in true Omarosa fashion — plenty of melodrama.

She compared the White House to a plantation, said that the president tweets in his underwear and that the situation inside 1600 Penn was bad, like “so bad.” But none of those True White House Confessions helped “reality show legend” Omarosa Manigault Newman (shown above) win “Celebrity Big Brother.”

It has been a headline-making ride for the reality star turned White House staffer, who on Sunday night was evicted from the “Celebrity Big Brother” house during the two-hour finale. And in true Omarosa fashion, there was plenty of melodrama in her final moments.

With her potential eviction looming, she had one last chance to plead her case in front of the four other remaining houseguests. The speech that followed was equal parts stump and sermon.

Nothing about her time in the Trump White House was off limits, and as her days inside the “Big Brother” house wore on, Omarosa’s tongue loosened up more and more. When contestant Brandi Glanville of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” “fame” asked the former “Apprentice” star whether she’d ever slept with her former boss, Omarosa was scandalized — at first.

“Hell no! Of course not. Brandi, that’s horrible,” Omarosa said, but of course she didn’t leave it there. “There’s somebody in the White House that’s sleeping around with everybody, but she is not me. . . . I’ve never had to do that.”

Feb. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Manafort money machine: A decade of lavish spending, influence-peddling and alleged fraud, Marc Fisher, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). Before they joined the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates made millions from foreign dictators. In a richly detailed expanded indictment, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown below right) parted the curtain shielding how the Washington influence merchants worked the system.

robert mueller full face fileAs Donald Trump crisscrossed the nation promising to drain the swamp, two of his top advisers were busy illegally building a colossal fortress of riches deep inside that swamp, according to federal prosecutors.

For a decade prior and on through Trump’s populist crusade, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates used offshore accounts, hidden income, falsified documents and laundered cash to maintain Manafort’s lush life of multiple homes, fine art, exquisite clothes and exotic travel, the government says.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2In a richly detailed expanded indictment filed Thursday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III parted the curtain shielding how two longtime Washington influence merchants worked the system. The government contends that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for five months before being fired, used people all around him, from his buddy Gates (with a beard and shown at right of Manafort) to banks, clients and the IRS, to build a life of conspicuous consumption.

fbi logoGates, who was Manafort’s deputy in their lobbying firm and on the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, cutting a deal with prosecutors to give them information that could help Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Democratic memo defending FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide is released, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). In their now-public retort, Democrats charge that the GOP unfairly attempted to malign the FBI and Justice Department for including information from the author of a dossier alleging President Trump had ties to Russian officials in an application to surveil Carter Page, one of Trump’s former campaign advisers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: 5 Takeaways From the Release of the Democratic Memo, Charlie Savage, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). The Democratic memo released on Saturday was written to counter Republican claims that law enforcement officials had abused their powers.

Feb. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Is Gaining Steam. Should Trump Be Worried? Peter Baker, Feb. 24, 2018. President Trump and his aides said they were not worried because none of the charges implicate the president. Yet the inquiry seems to be leading to a larger, as yet undefined, goal.

felix saterPalmer Report, Opinion: This is the part where Felix Sater brings down Donald Trump, J.H. Norton, Feb. 24, 2018. There is one person that President Donald Trump truly fears in his desperate quest to avoid being held accountable for a lifetime of glaring ethical and criminal lapses – Felix Sater (shown in a file photo).

Let me count the ways: 1.) He has ties to Russian organized crime. 2.) He is a longtime friend of Trump personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. 3.) After joining the Real Estate firm, The Bayrock Group, he did repeated business with Trump on real estate ventures where he often secured Russian funding and buyers. 4.) He worked to get a long sought-after Trump building project in Moscow. 5.) He was part of a crazy scheme with Michael Cohen and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to help oust anti-Russian Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko.

6.) Most importantly, Sater was quoted back in the late summer as saying, “In about the next 30 to 35 days…I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.”

ny times logoalex van der zwaanNew York Times, How Skadden Got Entangled in the Mueller Investigation, Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Goldstein, Feb. 24, 2018. The guilty plea of a lawyer from the giant law firm has cast a spotlight on its work for a Russia-aligned former president of Ukraine and its advice to other firms. Defendant Alex Van der Zwaan shown in a file photo.

Global News: Mexico

washington post logoWashington Post, After call with Trump turns testy over border wall, Mexico’s president shelves plan to visit White House, Philip Rucker, Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, Feb. 24, 2018. Tentative plans for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to make his first visit to the White House to meet with President Trump were scuttled this week after a testy call between the two leaders ended in an impasse over Trump’s promised border wall, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

enrique pea nieto oPeña Nieto (shown in an official photo) was eyeing an official trip to Washington this month or in early March, but both countries agreed to call off the plan after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall that the Mexican people widely consider offensive, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential conversation.

mexico flag1Speaking by phone on Feb. 20, Peña Nieto and Trump devoted a considerable portion of their roughly 50 minute conversation to the wall, and neither man would compromise his position. One Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper.” But U.S. officials described him instead as being frustrated and exasperated, saying Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.

Global News: Middle East

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israel flagny times logoNew York Times, $500 Million for a Jerusalem Embassy? Adelson Has an Idea, Gardiner Harris and Isabel Kershner, Feb. 24, 2018 (print edition). The administration said it would move up the opening of a temporary embassy to May to mark the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. The permanent cost is expected to surpass $500 million.

sheldon adelsonSheldon G. Adelson (shown at left), one of the most hawkish supporters of Israel among American Jews, has offered to help fund the construction of a new American Embassy in Jerusalem, according to the State Department, which on Friday said it was reviewing whether it could legally accept the donation.

The total price tag to build the new embassy to replace the current one in Tel Aviv is estimated at around $500 million, according to one former State Department official. While private donors have previously paid for renovations to American ambassadors’ overseas residences, Mr. Adelson’s contribution would be likely to far surpass those gifts — and could further strain American diplomacy in the Middle East.

Before the embassy is built, the Trump administration plans to open a temporary one in Jerusalem. On Friday, it said that it was accelerating the projected opening in time to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel on May 14.

Global News: Syria

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. Security Council approves 30-day humanitarian cease-fire in Syria, Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, Feb. 24, 2018.  The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously called for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria, with Russia agreeing to the temporary hiatus only after forcing two days of delays that critics said allowed ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to pursue a renewed bombing campaign blamed for hundreds of recent deaths in a rebel-controlled area.

UN logoThe nationwide truce would begin “without delay,” a victory for the United States and other nations that resisted Russian efforts to push back the start or soften the terms.

It came after intense negotiations to persuade Russia not to use its veto power in the Security Council. Moscow had blocked 11 previous Syria resolutions. The United States and others accused Moscow of protecting the Assad government and its bombing campaign in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta while allowing a humanitarian disaster to continue.

Editor’s Note: The propaganda tilt in the above story, mislabeled as a story in a news section, requires additional context, some provided below.

syria flagSouthFront, Eastern Ghouta: Brief Look At Upcoming Operation Damascus Steel, Staff report, Feb. 24, 2018.  The Syrian Arab Army is preparing to launch its long-awaited Operation Damascus Steel in the Eastern Ghouta. The operation’s goal is to capture entire militant-held pocket (+100 km²) and to secure the Syrian capital and the Damascus-Homs highway (M5).

Right now, Damascus is under a constrant threat of shelling by Tahrir Al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, the Free Syrian Army and other militant groups. A success in Eastern Ghouta will also allow to free a large number of SAA troops for further operations against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the province of Idlib. Forces. In total, the operation will involve 10,000 – 15,000 pro-government fighters, backed by the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aeroosapce Forces.

Feb. 23

Mueller Probe Of Trump

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Ex-Trump campaign official Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy, lying to FBI, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 23, 2018. Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy and making a false statement, could provide special counsel Robert S. Mueller III with valuable information about the inner workings of the Trump campaign and early administration as he seeks to determine whether there was any coordination with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. 

rick gates Gates (shown in a file photo) could provide the special counsel with valuable information about the inner workings of Trump’s operation: He served as a senior figure in the campaign and had access to the White House as an outside adviser in the early months of the administration.

The news of his expected deal with prosecutors comes a day after Mueller filed a new 32-count indictment against Gates and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his longtime employer, ratcheting up pressure on the two men.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller and Trump: Born to wealth, raised to lead. Then, sharply different choices, Marc Fisher and Sari Horwitz, Feb. 23, 2018. In Vietnam, in matters of love and in their careers, the president and the man investigating him have followed opposite paths.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Russia Inquiry Entangled a Manafort Protégé, Nicholas Confessore and Berry Meier, Feb. 23, 2018. Read our coverage from 2017 about the rapid rise, and sudden fall, of Mr. Gates.

Security v. Nepotism At White House

washington post logojohn kelly o dhsWashington Post, Trump says chief of staff Kelly will handle decisions about Jared Kushner’s security clearance, Jenna Johnson​, Feb. 23, 2018. John F. Kelly (shown at right) had said that the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-secret information.

“General Kelly respects Jared a lot, and General Kelly will make that call — I won’t make that call. I will let the general, who’s right here, make that call,” the president said. “And I have no doubt that he will make the right decision.”

School Massacre Fallout

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says the Solution Is More Mental Hospitals. Experts Scoff, Benedict Carey, Feb. 23, 2018. Spree killers may be angry and troubled, but few have shown symptoms that would have landed them in mental hospitals, experts say.

washington post logodjt official portraitWashington Post, We’re going to take action’: Inside Trump’s shifting stance on gun rights, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, Feb. 23, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s decision to place himself at the center of the roiling debate over the nation’s gun laws began hours after last week’s Florida high school massacre, when images of angry yet poised teenage survivors were beamed into the White House on live television.

Trump’s aides almost immediately recognized the power of their message and argued that before the president could propose any solutions, he needed to hear personally from these young adults, according to administration officials. Trump agreed.

The plans culminated six days later under the grand chandelier of the White House’s state dining room, where Trump sat face-to-face with survivors of gun violence and the relatives of victims and witnessed their angst and raw anger.

The president, who has often struggled to convey empathy, clutched a slim notecard with reminders about how to communicate with the grieving — “I hear you,” read one — that officials said White House Communications Director Hope Hicks jotted down during a huddle with Trump to prepare for the event.

ny times logorick scott

New York Times, Defying N.R.A., Florida Lawmakers Back Raising Age Limits on Assault Rifles, Patricia Mazzei and Jess Bidgood, Feb. 23, 2018. Gov. Rick Scott (shown at right) and top state lawmakers proposed on Friday the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades, backing new limits that defy the National Rifle Association but fall short of demands from survivors of last week’s school shooting.

Faced with massive protests, the Republican governor  Scott announced a plan to raise the minimum age to buy any firearm, including semiautomatic rifles, from 18 to 21. Mr. Scott also vowed to strengthen rules to keep weapons away from people who have mental health problems or injunctions against them for stalking or domestic violence.

Inside Washington

Roll Call, Trump at CPAC: ‘Lock Her Up,’ ‘The Snake’ — and Hiding the Bald Spot, John T. Bennett, Feb. 23, 2018. Democrats want to ‘take away your Second Amendment,’ POTUS says. The crowd chanted “lock her up!” Donald Trump gleefully veered off-script, saying his prepared speech was “a little boring.”

He depicted undocumented immigrants as “the snake” that inevitably will deliver a “vicious bite” to American citizens. Earlier Friday, Trump dubbed an armed Florida sheriff’s deputy who remained outside the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were gunned down last week a “coward.”

djt hair feb 2 2018 screengrabAnd he told the crowd he tries “like hell” to hide a bald spot on his head. (President Trump ascending the steps up to Air Force One, Feb. 2, 2018.)

The president’s Friday appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference did not disappoint, with Trump warning Democrats want to take away his supporters’ money and gun rights.

#MeToo GOP Sex Scandals

wayne madsen new observerWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The GOP (Gross Old Perverts) hit with three sex scandals in 24-hour period, Wayne Madsen (shown at left), Feb. 23, 2018. Within a 24-hour news cycle, three top Republican officials in three states were mired in legal trouble stemming from sex scandals. One, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, was arrested.

Conservative Opinion On Guns, Chicago

Weekly Standard, Chicago, Then and Now, Joseph Epstein, Feb 23, 2018.  It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. The big news out of Chicago, city of my birth and upbringing, is murder.

According to a reliable website called HeyJackass!, during 2017, someone in Chicago was shot every 2 hours and 27 minutes and murdered every 12 hours and 59 minutes. There were 679 murders and 2,936 people shot in the city. This, for those who like their deviancy defined down, is an improvement over 2016, when 722 people were murdered and 3,658 shot. The overwhelming preponderance of these people, victims and murderers both, are black, and the crimes committed chiefly in black neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides.

Global News: Syrian Civilians

SouthFront, Syrian Helicopters Drop Leaflets Calling On Civilians To Leave East Ghouta Via Established Safe Routes, Staff report, Feb. 23, 2018. On Feb. 22, helicopters of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) dropped thousands of leaflets over the Eastern Ghouta pocket, in which the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) called on the civilians to leave the pocket through several safe routes and warned them that a military operation will begin soon in the region.

syria flagThe SAA promised the civilians that it will move them to secured area, provide medical care and food and then allow them to return to their homes once terrorists there are eliminated. Similar procedures were taken by the SAA and its allies during the battle of Aleppo in late 2016. This allowed tens of thousands of civilians to leave the battle areas safely.

The SAA’s plan to evacuate the civilians from the East Ghouta pocket hints that the SAA and its allies are planning to clear the entire pocket from militant groups operating there: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam.

The Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides in Syria accused the opposition forces in the East Ghouta pocket of hindering the efforts to evacuate the civilians from the pocket in an official statement on February 21.

Global News: Syrian Government Attack On Terrorists, Hypocrisy At UN

Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari, Syrian Representative to United NationsSANA (Syrian Arab News Agency), Al-Jaafari: endangering lives of 8 million civilians in Damascus to protect terrorists in Eastern Ghouta is unacceptable, Staff report, Feb. 23, 2018. Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari (shown above) stressed that endangering the lives of 8 million civilians in Damascus in order to protect terrorists in Eastern Ghouta is unacceptable act.

Al-Jaafari made his remarks during a UN Security Council meeting held on Thursday to discuss the situation in Syria. He added that the draft resolution submitted by Kuwait and Sweden to the UN Security Council was not coordinated with Syria – the very country impacted by that text – in any way, which is a big shame.

The Syrian diplomat noted that terrorist groups situated in the Eastern Ghouta and designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council have been targeting Damascus with hundreds of rocket and mortar shells on a daily basis, causing the death and injury of dozens of civilians.

UN logoSuch incidents are not surprising because whenever there is a UNSC meeting to discuss the Syrian affair, a massacre or a suicidal bombing takes place, said al-Jaafari, adding countless massacres had taken place all over Syria during the past seven years, and were well documented in the hundreds of letters sent to the United Nations.

He added that neither stories nor the Syrian viewpoint reached the ears of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, the way letters sent by the so-called humanitarian aid workers in the Eastern Ghouta area did.

Al-Jaafari said that those who used the word “regime” in this session when talking about Syria have dropped all pretense of objectivity and neutrality, furthermore they reveal the involvement of their countries in what is taking place in the Syria.

He expressed gratitude to Russia for its call upon the UNSC to hold an open-door session and give him the opportunity to highlight the suffering of Syrian civilians and citizens due to the practices of the armed terrorist groups which continued to spread destruction and death over the past seven years, used civilians as human shields and turned schools and hospitals under their control into military positions and bases for firing rocket and mortar shells on safe residential areas, rejecting the description by France’s delegate of such actions as a form of resistance.

Centcom logoThe US-led coalition has moved from the stage of proxy aggression on Syria to a one of actual aggression in order to achieve what the terrorists failed to achieve, al-Jaafari added.

He said it is clear that the US, France and Britain sought to deprive the Syrian government of its sovereign right to defend its territory and people as laid out in the United Nations Charter.

“Let’s imagine for one second that if such a situation, where terrorists continuously targeted civilians, were occurring in Paris, New York or London, would any one refer to them as moderate or non-State armed opposition groups, as they did with those committing crimes in Syria,” added al-Jaafari.

He noted that the United Nations continues to turn blind eyes and deaf ears to the Israeli occupation’s repeated attacks on the Syrian territory within the framework of its support to the terrorist groups, not to mention overlooking the US-led international coalition’s crimes including the complete destruction of Raqqa city under pretext of fighting Daesh terrorist organization and ignoring the Turkish aggression on Afrin area.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin ally spoke to Kremlin before his mercenaries attacked U.S. forces, Ellen Nakashima, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly, Feb. 23, 2018 (print edition). Intercepted communications show that Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin told a Syrian official that he “secured permission” from a Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February, according to intelligence reports.

Moon of Alabama, Syria: The Two East-Ghouta Campaigns, One Is For Liberation, The Other To Save Terrorists, b, Feb. 23, 2018. Daily mortar and missile attacks against the Syrian capital Damascus have been ongoing for years but intensified in recent months. All these mortars and missiles were fired from east-Ghouta, a Takfiri held area consisting partly of densely urban blocks and partly of agricultural villages. Some 400,000 people originally lived in the area but the number of people living there now is likely less than half of that.

The western propaganda is repeating its “save Aleppo” campaign to save the terrorists in Ghouta. In the process the western aligned countries are making a joke (vid) out of the UN Security Council. There is no mention in this campaign of any Takfiri and no picture of any of the sectarian militants who daily kill random people in Damascus.

During the siege and the liberation of east-Aleppo the seven year old Bana, a girl who did not (vid) understand or know any English, was tweeting her genuine feelings in best prosaic English to the world. She called for war against Russia. Her father turned out to be a henchman for al-Qaeda’s sharia court in east-Aleppo. But the media just loved that story.

CNN now found itself a new “Bana”: The 15-year-old documenting Eastern Ghouta massacre with selfie videos. But this time the lucrative position of a tearful media darling attracted competition.

During the 2016 Aleppo campaign the terrorist supporters ran an “Aleppo Media Center” (AMC) which distributed propaganda products to the “western” media. Together with the “White Helmets” al-Qaeda support gang it created the “boy in the ambulance” picture that many “western” newspaper printed on their front pages. The AMC was financed by the French government. The same organization that ran the AMC is now running the Ghouta Media Center GMC.

There are an estimated 15,000 men under arms in east-Ghouta. Despite that, not one armed person can be seen in any of dozens of “White Helmets” propaganda videos of pictures of allegedly rescued, wounded or killed persons in east-Ghouta.

During the east-Aleppo campaign between June 10 2016 and November 19 2016 the “last hospital of Aleppo” was reported as being destroyed “just now” for at least 21 times (vid). The “last hospital of east-Ghouta” will soon follow a similar path to fame.

The Syrian government has offered to evacuate all militants and their families from east-Ghouta to Idleb governorate. They declined. With the help of Egypt negotiations are ongoing with the Takfiri sponsors in Saudi Arabia. But as there are several terrorist groups involved it is doubtful that much will come from these talks.

Feb. 22

paul manafort cnn

Then Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort is shown in a 2016 screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Special counsel files new charges in Manafort, Gates case, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 22, 2018. The filing ratchets up the legal pressure on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, as they prepare for a trial later this year on fraud and money laundering charges. The new indictment filed by Robert S. Mueller III contains 32 counts, including tax charges.

fbi logoPaul Manafort was using fraudulently obtained loans and tax-cheating tricks to prop up his personal finances as he became chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016, according to a new 32-count indictment filed against him and his business partner Thursday.

rick gatesThe indictment ratchets up pressure on Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates (shown at left), who were already preparing for a trial that could come later this year on fraud and money laundering charges.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, and served as the campaign chairman from June to August of that year. Gates also served as a top official on Trump’s campaign. The new indictment offers a more detailed portrait of what prosecutors say was a multi-year scheme by Manafort and Gates to use their income from working for a Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle even after their business connections in Kiev evaporated.

eric greitens mike pence

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a first-term Republican, is shown meeting Vice President Mike Pence in a file photo

washington post logo

Washington Post, Missouri governor indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge after blackmail allegation, Marwa Eltagouri, Feb. 22, 2018. Republican Eric Greitens was taken into custody on charges stemming from a 2015 affair. Greitens previously said he won’t resign, despite calls from numerous Republican and Democratic state lawmakers to do so.

eric greitens oMissouri Gov. Eric Greitens (shown at right) was indicted Thursday afternoon by a St. Louis grand jury on felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a nude photo of a woman he had an extramarital affair with in 2015, according to city officials.

Greitens had allegedly threatened to blackmail the woman by saying he would distribute the photo of her if she exposed the relationship. The accusations stem from a secret recording by the woman’s ex-husband published by KMOV in St. Louis, in which the woman is heard describing how Greitens invited her to his home in 2015 and, with her consent, taped her hands to exercise rings, blindfolded her and took photos of her naked.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and First Lady Sheena Greitens at 2017 Inaugural Ball (Missouri National Guard Photo)St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner launched an investigation in January, after Greitens admitted he had been unfaithful to his wife before he was elected governor in 2016. His lawyer has denied the blackmail accusations.

Despite calls from numerous Republican and Democratic state lawmakers to resign, Greitens has said he has no plans to do so. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and First Lady Sheena Greitens at 2017 Inaugural Ball (Missouri National Guard Photo).

tom schedler o duties Custom 2

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican in charge of the state’s elections and accused of sexual harassment, is shown above

The Advocate (Baton Rouge New Orleans Acadiana), Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler says he had consensual sex in past with harassment accuser, Joe Gyan Jr., Feb. 22, 2018. Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed Thursday that claims he repeatedly propositioned an employee over a decade and retaliated against her after she rejected his advances.

The suit says Schedler would send the woman Valentine’s Day cards addressed to “My Dearest Sunshine,” roses, bottles of wine, clothing and sex tapes, despite her telling him she was not interested in a sexual relationship.

Through a spokeswoman, Schedler said he had a “consensual sexual relationship” with the woman in the past. Jill Craft, the woman’s attorney, said that relationship did not happen.

Schedler kept watch over her home after buying a townhouse directly across from her and had her monitored by Secretary of State security personnel, the lawsuit alleges. Schedler obtained her boyfriend’s license plate number and had it run, putting the printout on his desk for her to see, along with her boyfriend’s business address, according to the suit.

“When she arrived at work, he inquired about why she was engaging in certain activities at her residence, such as planting, engaging in crafts, and painting, and why she had certain visitors at her residence, particularly male visitors,” the suit states.

Schedler said in a written statement that his office takes any allegation of sexual harassment “very seriously.”

“I have not seen the suit or the specific details but as the father of three grown daughters and three granddaughters I can assure the public that I believe in a safe workplace, free from harassment, and will continue my record of transparency with my constituents,” he said.

Schedler added that he and his wife have been living apart for a long time, and that “our friends and family have known of our personal status and have lovingly supported our decision.”

Craft said Schedler acknowledged in a communication with the woman that she sent him an email telling him to leave her alone.

“In spite of what he acknowledged as very clear directives from my client …, Mr. Schedler persisted and not only refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, but punished her for saying ‘no,'” Craft said.

Reactions To School Massacres

washington post logoWashington Post, Armed sheriff’s deputy stayed outside Florida school while mass killing took place, Lori Rozsa​, Feb. 22, 2018. The officer assigned to protect students took a defensive position while the shooter was killing people, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. The officer has resigned, following a suspension.

The armed school resource officer assigned to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a defensive position outside the school and did not enter the building while the shooter was killing students and teachers inside with an AR-15 assault-style rifle, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday.

Israel suspended School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson on Thursday after seeing a video from the Parkland, Fla. school that showed Peterson outside the school building where the shooter was inside and attacking. “What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and never went in,” Israel said.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

President Trump, shown in a Defense Department photo

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Fix it’: Students and parents tell Trump to address gun violence at schools, Jenna Johnson and John Wagner. Feb. 22, 2018 (print edition). The president listened intently at the White House as students, parents and teachers begged him to do something, anything, to prevent another mass shooting. The group offered several suggestions, but in the end, Trump remained focused on something he often proposes after a mass shooting: increasing the number of people with guns so they can quickly stop shooters.

ny times logonra logo CustomNew York Times, N.R.A. Chief Invokes 2nd Amendment in Attack on Democrats, Jeremy W. Peters, Feb. 22, 2018. Wayne LaPierre defended gun ownership at the Conservative Political Action Conference while criticizing the news media, Democrats and the F.B.I. The head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, leveled a searing indictment on Thursday against liberal Democrats, the news media and political opportunists he said were joined together in a socialist plot to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”

wayne lapierre cpac cbs feb 22 2018Mr. LaPierre’s remarks, his first since a gunman took the lives of 17 people at a Florida high school last week, seemed aimed at blunting the rising public pressure for stricter gun control. Conservatives, he said (as shown in a CBS News screenshot of his talk), needed to push back even as liberals tried to smear them.

“The shameful politicization of tragedy — it’s a classic strategy, right out of the playbook of a poisonous movement,” he said to a friendly but largely restrained crowd at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “They hate the N.R.A. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom.”

The solution Mr. LaPierre offered was not to pass new laws but to better enforce the existing background check system and, he said, “harden our schools” with more armed guards.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Suggests Giving Bonuses to Trained and Armed Teachers, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Feb. 22, 2018. President Trump again promoted arming specially trained teachers, saying some could get bonuses, but rejected active-shooter drills to prepare for a rampage. His suggestion came as he convened another meeting on gun violence after a shooting at a Florida high school.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why This Gun Debate Is Different From the Rest, Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, Feb. 22, 2018. Last week’s school massacre in Florida set the well-worn machinery of America’s gun debate in motion. But angry students inject new passion into a stale fight.

washington post logoWashington Post, Organizers plan for 500,000 at gun-control march in D.C., Justin Wm. Moyer, Feb. 22, 2018. The March 24th rally, organized by survivors of last week’s school massacre in Parkland, Fla., will have “sister marches” in other major cities, organizers said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Viral lies swirl as survivors of Florida school shooting become victims of conspiracy theories, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Abby Ohlheiser and Andrew Ba Tran, Feb. 22, 2018 (print edition). The incident has highlighted how nobody — not even a group of teens just days removed from seeing their fellow students gunned down — is off limits in the no-holds-barred world of online commentary.

Trump Jr. Hustles Business In India

ny times logoindia flag mapNew York Times, Trump Jr. Drums Up Business in India, Stoking Controversy, Maria Abi-Habib, Kai Schultz and Suhasini Raj, Feb. 22, 2018. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, is in India on behalf of the family business, raising ethics concerns, but word that he planned a speech on foreign policy took the controversy to a new level.

West Virginia Teachers On Strike

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They have had it’: West Virginia teachers strike, closing all public schools, Sarah Larimer, Feb. 22, 2018. Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job Thursday amid a dispute over pay and benefits, causing more than 277,000 public school students to miss classes even as educators swarmed the state Capitol in Charleston to protest.

All 55 counties in the state closed schools during Thursday’s work stoppage, Alyssa Keedy, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Education, said.

Data from the National Education Association show that in 2016, West Virginia ranked 48th in average teacher salaries. Only Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota sat below it in the rankings, which included 50 states and the District.

The work stoppage came not long after Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday he had signed legislation to give teachers and state police a 2 percent raise. That bump in pay would start in July. Teachers were also expected to get a 1 percent increase in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, according to a news release.

Another #MeToo Scandal, This Times In Schools

ny times logoNew York Times, A Charter Schools Co-Founder Is Fired Over Abuse Claims, Anemona Hartocollis, Feb. 22, 2018. Michael Feinberg was accused of sexually abusing a female student in the late 1990s. An investigation found the claim credible, though he has denied it.

KIPP, one of the country’s largest and most successful charter school chains, dismissed its co-founder on Thursday after an investigation found credible a claim that he had sexually abused a student some two decades ago, according to a letter sent to the school community.

The co-founder, Michael Feinberg, was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, according to someone with close knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother, who both gave the same sequence of events.

Mr. Feinberg denies the accusation, his lawyer, Christopher L. Tritico, said.

Investigators also uncovered evidence that Mr. Feinberg had sexually harassed two KIPP employees. One case, in 2004, led to a financial settlement, the letter said; the other could not be corroborated because the woman involved would not cooperate, but the letter found it to be credible.

Trump FCC To Abolish Net Neutrality In April

huff post logoHuffPost, FCC Orders Net Neutrality To End In April, Sara Boboltz, Feb. 22, 2018. Internet service providers will be allowed to treat some content differently. The Federal Communications Commission has ordered net neutrality to end on April 23, the agency formally announced Thursday in the Federal Register.

The commission voted 3-2 in December to overturn Obama-era rules preventing internet service providers, or ISPs, from treating certain content differently. The change will allow ISPs to block, slow down, or charge more for certain content as they see fit. That means consumers could notice a difference in how they experience sites like Netflix and Facebook, compared with websites of smaller companies.

fcc logoThe FCC adopted rules to preserve net neutrality in February 2015. Overturning them means the government will stop regulating internet service as a utility, like phone service.

The commission said in the Federal Register that it considers its decision a return “to the light-touch regulatory scheme that enabled the internet to develop and thrive for nearly two decades.”

Many tech giants opposed the repeal, which reflects the Trump administration’s view that less regulation helps businesses and the economy.

Trump Threatens To Withdraw Enforcement From California

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump casually threatens to pull ICE officers out of California to teach the state a lesson, Jenna Johnson, Feb. 22, 2018. President Trump said Thursday that he has become so frustrated with California’s “lousy management job” in cracking down on illegal immigration that he’s thinking about removing federal immigration officials from the state.

“If we ever pulled our ICE out, if we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back,” Trump said during a roundtable discussion about school shootings Thursday with state and local officials. “They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.”

In December, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the California Values Act into law, forbidding local authorities from asking about immigration status during routine interactions or doing the work of immigration agents. The governor has stated that the law does not prevent or prohibit federal officials from doing their jobs.

Billy Graham Dies

barack obama billy graham 2010 wh Custom

President Obama and the Rev. Bill Graham in 2010 (White House photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Billy Graham, 99, Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents, Laurie Goodstein, Feb. 22, 2018 (print edition). billy graham april 1 1966 us news world report lib o congressThe Rev. Billy Graham, a North Carolina farmer’s son who preached to millions in stadium events he called crusades, becoming a pastor to presidents and the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years, died on Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99.

Mr. Graham (shown at right in a 1966 photo) spread his influence across the country and around the world through a combination of religious conviction, commanding stage presence and shrewd use of radio, television and advanced communication technologies.

whowhatwhy logoruss bakerWhoWhatWhy, Billy Graham, Willing Pawn for Politicians, Russ Baker (shown at right), Feb. 22, 2018. With the passing of Billy Graham, we can expect all the usual homilies and hagiographies. But there’s another side to the role of such very public “men of God” in America’s cynical politics.

Billy Graham has died. He is being remembered as a friend and confessor to presidents, one who gave them russ baker cover Customguidance and moral fortification. But just as much, Graham was a willing tool of politicians who used him and his supposed pipeline to divine authority to win over the electorate.

The role of “spiritual leaders” in cynically playing the public is both important and largely ignored. But it is well illustrated in this chapter from WhoWhatWhy Editor in Chief Russ Baker’s book, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years.

Global News: Israeli Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Aide to Netanyahu Turns State Witness as Graft Cases Multiply, Isabel Kershner and David M. Halbfinger, Feb. 22, 2018 (print edition).  One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest and longest-serving aides appeared ready to incriminate him on Wednesday after agreeing overnight to become a government witness, the latest twist in a spiraling graft scandal that seemed to dim Mr. Netanyahu’s legal and political chances of survival almost by the hour.

benjamin netanyahu frownThe fast-moving police inquiry into whether Mr. Netanyahu (shown in a file photo), already battling separate bribery allegations, had provided official favors to Israel’s largest telecommunications company, Bezeq, in exchange for fawning coverage on the company’s online news site prompted one member of the prime minister’s party to ask him to step aside and opposition politicians to call for early elections.

Mr. Netanyahu, who insists he has done nothing wrong, has faced corruption allegations periodically almost since first becoming prime minister in 1996. But the latest — with its suggestion of political payoffs to a company that bills ordinary Israeli voters every month — could prove the most damning. And as the revelations mounted, one on top of another like a tottering tower, Israelis expressed increasing doubt about Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to maintain his grip on power.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Government Forces Got Control Over All Neighborhoods Of Aleppo City Which Had Been Controlled By YPG, Staff report, Feb. 22, 2018. On Feb. 22, units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) entered into the YPG-held neighborhoods of Aleppo city and established a full control over them. The development was officially confirmed by a representative of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). According to the released statement, YPG units from the city of Aleppo had moved to the Afrin area to combat Turkish forces.

Bot Purge Protestrepublican elephant logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Some conservative media figures complain after Twitter suspends thousands of suspected bot accounts, Eli Rosenberg, Feb. 22, 2018 (print edition). Pro-Trump host Bill Mitchell, white nationalist Richard Spencer and others were unhappy about losing a small portion of their followers. Other conservative accounts were suspended pending verification that they are run by people.

More Government Sex Scandals

nicholas kettle oWPRI-TV 12 (Providence), Facing expulsion, Kettle resigns from Senate, Ted Nesi, Feb. 22, 2018. State Sen. Nicholas Kettle resigned his seat Thursday, forestalling an effort by Senate leaders to expel him from office following his indictment last week. Kettle, the former Republican minority whip, is shown in an official photo at right.

Kettle, R-Coventry, made the announcement in a letter to senators released by one of his attorneys, Priscilla Facha DiMaio, that also criticized Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Republican Leader Dennis Algiere for moving to expel him. DiMaio formally delivered the letter to the State House at 2 p.m. DiMaio and Senate aides were seen clearing out Kettle’s office, and his name was scraped off the door by a custodian shortly thereafter.

nicholas kettle oSee related story: Providence Journal, R.I. senator charged with 2 counts of extorting sex from former State House page, Patrick Anderson and Tom Mooney, Feb. 19, 2018. A grand jury indictment unsealed Monday accuses state Sen. Nicholas Kettle, a 27-year-old Coventry Republican, of twice coercing a Senate student page to have sex with him in 2011, Kettle’s first year in the General Assembly. The indictment accused Kettle of threatening to injure the page or harm his reputation if he did not comply.

The alleged victim was a legislative page in 2011 and 2012, when he was 16 or 17 years old. Legislative pages range in age from 15 to college-age, and run errands for the lawmakers in the State House, including shuttling paperwork and bringing water.

nicholas kettle mug CustomKettle (GOP minority whip and shown in a mug shot) was arrested Friday afternoon at his job in Richmond on a charge of video voyeurism that state police say was a result of him sharing pornographic images of his now ex-girlfriend.

State police also seized more than a dozen mobile phones, computers and hard drives from Kettle’s home and office.Regarding the voyeurism charge, court documents allege that Kettle was exchanging naked pictures of his former girlfriend with a New Hampshire friend. His former girlfriend told investigators she thought the two had known each other for a long time and had initially met in the Boy Scouts. (Kettle is an Eagle Scout.)

The documents allege Kettle’s friend also exchanged with Kettle pictures of his wife. The men talked about swapping partners and videotaping sex acts. Kettle suggested his friend should have sex with him and his girlfriend, the documents allege. The documents also allege that Kettle and his friend exchanged pictures of their genitalia.

with him and his girlfriend, the documents allege. The documents also allege that Kettle and his friend exchanged pictures of their genitalia.

usda logo horizontal Custom

Politico, How a black history event at USDA became a ‘Me Too’ moment, Catherine Boudreau, Feb. 22, 2018. Rosetta Davis said she had not planned on publicly sharing what she alleges are the most intimate and painful details of her 16 years working for the Agriculture Department.

But after hearing department officials praise the work environment at USDA during a Black History Month event last week, she said she felt compelled to speak.

“I sat there and I listened, and I became emotional, and I bowed my head and I prayed, and before I knew it, I was on the stage,” a visibly shaken Davis told Politico during an interview Wednesday at her lawyer’s office in Washington.

Before an audience of USDA employees in Jefferson Auditorium at USDA headquarters, Davis said she was fed up by what she described as years of sexual harassment and retaliation by senior management in civil rights offices. She said she had had consensual sex with D. Leon King, a director in the Office of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, in exchange for a promised promotion. Davis also named Brian Garner, director of the Farm Service Agency’s Office of Civil Rights, and several other top officials as contributing to a hostile work environment.

“Don’t hide your faces now!” Davis told the audience, adding, “Don’t try to stop me from speaking. Why won’t anyone do something about this? Can someone please help me?”

Davis, 54, told Politico that the worst abuse occurred after 2008, when she ended consensual relationship she alleged in her civil complaint having with King. She claims she became the target of sexual harassment and retaliation, never received a promotion despite taking on duties performed by employees with a higher pay grade, and was shuffled to different posts within USDA civil rights offices, most recently at the department’s Farm Service Agency. The USDA has filed a motion asking the court to dismiss Davis’ lawsuit, and that motion is pending.

A USDA spokesperson said in an email to Politico that the department was “looking into these matters and will address them as appropriate, based on federal personnel and civil rights laws and regulations.” The spokesperson declined to make any of the officials named in the suit available for an interview.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Charter Schools Co-Founder Is Fired Over Abuse Claims, Anemona Hartocollis, Feb. 22, 2018. Michael Feinberg was accused of sexually abusing a female student in the late 1990s. An investigation found the claim credible, though he has denied it.

KIPP, one of the country’s largest and most successful charter school chains, dismissed its co-founder on Thursday after an investigation found credible a claim that he had sexually abused a student some two decades ago, according to a letter sent to the school community.

The co-founder, Michael Feinberg, was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, according to someone with close knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother, who both gave the same sequence of events.

Mr. Feinberg denies the accusation, his lawyer, Christopher L. Tritico, said.

Investigators also uncovered evidence that Mr. Feinberg had sexually harassed two KIPP employees. One case, in 2004, led to a financial settlement, the letter said; the other could not be corroborated because the woman involved would not cooperate, but the letter found it to be credible.

JFK Assassination Research / ‘Conspiracy Theory’

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Disappointment Over Tyler Cowen’s Take on the JFK Assassination, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), Feb. 22, 2018. Anyone familiar with Tyler Cowen knows that he has been blessed with a brilliant and analytical mind. Such being the case, I was particularly interested in reading his Bloomberg article “How to Test Your Favorite Conspiracy Theory,” at least insofar as it related to the assassination of President John Kennedy. I wanted to see how Cowen applied his legendary analytical skills to that seminal event in U.S. history.

Alas, after reading the article, I was left with nothing but disappointment.

Mind you, the article wasn’t only about the JFK assassination. It also encompassed other subjects, like UFOs, the Malaysian Airliner crash, insider trading, baseball scandals, the moon walk, and Paul McCartney.

Nonetheless, Cowen’s comments on the JFK assassination was fascinating, revealing, and, well, disappointing. Here is what he writes:

I am inclined to think (although not certain) that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone…. Another way to search for true conspiracies is to scour history for deathbed confessions. Did any Cuban or Soviet agents, shortly before dying, blurt out that they knew the true story of President John Kennedy’s assassination? As far as I know, these admissions are hard to come by. That’s another reason for not believing in most conspiracy theories.”

That is a fascinating — and revealing — insight into Cowen’s perspective on the JFK assassination. Notice that Cowen’s mindset leads to but two possibilities: Oswald did it alone. Or Oswald conspired with others.

Who would those “others” be? Why, Soviet or Cuban agents of course. That’s why Cowen refers to the absence of deathbed confessions from Soviet or Cuban agents. He is suggesting that if Oswald didn’t act alone, then his co-conspirators had to have been Soviet or Cuban communists.

Why is that? Cowen is alluding to the official story: Oswald was supposedly a devout communist, one who had traveled to Moscow, attempted to defect to the Soviet Union (i.e., Russia), vowed to give the Reds all the information he had acquired as U.S. Marine, returned to the United States with a Russian wife, distributed pamphlets in New Orleans for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and traveled to Mexico City, where he purportedly visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies shortly before the assassination.

Thus, all that obviously leads Cowen to conclude that there are but two possibilities: Oswald acted alone or Oswald conspired with the Reds to kill Kennedy. Since no deathbed confessions have popped up among Soviet and Cuban agents, Cowen tends toward the lone-nut theory.

What is disappointing is that Cowen apparently fails to consider a third possibility: that Oswald was entirely innocent — that is, that he didn’t kill Kennedy, either alone or in concert with anyone.

Feb. 21

Analysis Of Trump Probe

rudy giuliani recentPalmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Rudy Giuliani is so nervous, Bill Palmer, Feb. 21, 2018. Two weeks ago, Palmer Report pointed out that Rudy Giuliani (shown in a file photo) was suddenly sounding very, very nervous about the FBI. In fact he went so far as to publicly warn Donald Trump and the Republican Party about messing with the FBI. It was clear that Giuliani, who used to brag about his FBI connections before he got caught up in scandal, was worried that he was going to get busted. Now we’re seeing new Trump-Russia developments that point to why Rudy sounds so nervous.

Yesterday, Robert Mueller revealed that he had obtained a guilty plea from attorney Alex Van der Zwaan, who had tried to mislead investigators in the Trump-Russia scandal. The question of course is why Mueller is making such a point of busting Van der Zwaan. The answer may lie in the fact that his father-in-law is the owner of Alfa Bank in Russia, which has allegedly been deeply involved in the Trump-Russia election rigging scandal. As it turns out, Alfa Bank’s former attorney is none other than Rudy Giuliani.

alex van der zwaanIf Mueller’s strategy here is to get Alex Van der Zwaan (shown at right) to give up what he knows about Alfa Bank’s involvement in the Trump-Russia scandal, then it’s not difficult to draw a straight line from there to Giuliani. Why was Rudy, a former Trump campaign adviser, also representing a Russian bank that’s been connected to the Trump campaign? What are the odds that that’s a mere coincidence?

No wonder Rudy Giuliani sounds nervous. Either he fears Robert Mueller and the FBI are about to nail him in the Trump-Russia scandal, or he’s already been forced to flip on Trump and he’s been left shellshocked by the experience. We’ll find out what’s really going on here soon enough. But there’s a reason why Giuliani, who never met a television camera he didn’t like, has been laying so low over the past year. He knew Trump-Russia would get him eventually, and it either has, or it will.

philip giraldiUnz Review via OpEdNews, Opinion: Russiagate Suddenly Becomes Bigger, Philip Giraldi, Feb. 21, 2018. Philip Giraldi (shown in a file photo) is a non-profit executive and former CIA officer. Last Friday’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies by Special Counsel Robert Mueller was detailed in a 37-page document that provided a great deal of specific evidence claiming that a company based in St. Petersburg, starting in 2014, was using social media to assess American attitudes.

Using that assessment, the company inter alia allegedly later ran a clandestine operation seeking to influence opinion in the United States regarding the candidates in the 2016 election in which it favored Donald Trump and denigrated Hillary Clinton. The Russians identified by name are all back in Russia and cannot be extradited to the U.S., so the indictment is, to a certain extent, political theater as the accused’s defense will never be heard.

In presenting the document, Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, stressed that there was no evidence to suggest that the alleged Russian activity actually changed the result of the 2016 presidential election or that any actual votes were altered or tampered with. Nor was there any direct link to either the Russian government or its officials or to the Donald Trump campaign developed as a result of the nine-month-long investigation.

Even on a worst-case basis, stirring things up is what intelligence agencies do, and no one is more active in interfering in foreign governments and elections than the United States of America, most notably in Russia for the election of Boris Yeltsin in 1996, which was arranged by Washington, and more recently in Ukraine in 2014. From my own experience I can cite Italy’s 1976 national election in which the CIA went all out to keep the communists out of government.

Courts, Crime: Scandal On Arkansas Bench

joseph boeckmannAssociated Press via Arkansas Business, Former Judge Joseph Boeckmann Gets 5 Years in Prison, Kelly P. Kissel, Feb. 21, 2018. A federal judge sentenced a former Arkansas judge Wednesday to five years in prison — a stiffer punishment than prosecutors recommended — after he admitted giving young male defendants lighter sentences in return for personal benefits that included sexual favors.

Joseph Boeckmann’s lawyer had wanted home detention for the 72-year-old (shown in a county jail photo), and prosecutors said he should go to prison for just over three years. After hearing from two of the ex-judge’s victims, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker said she had no choice but to impose an even longer sentence.

“He acted corruptly while serving as a judge. When his back was against the wall, he obstructed justice,” Baker said. “That sets his crime apart.”

Prosecutors said Boeckmann’s pattern of misbehavior dated at least to the 1990s, when he was investigated while a part-time deputy Cross County prosecutor. Federal prosecutors decided against charging him after he agreed to give up his post in 1998.

Richard Milliman of Memphis, Tennessee, became one of Boeckmann’s victims after being stopped for driving 5 mph over the speed limit four years ago, then forgetting his trial date. The judge summoned Milliman to his house and took photos of him from behind as he picked up cans under the guise of performing community service, then shot photos of some of Milliman’s tattoos.

washington post logoWashington Post, Company run by Trump associate has received $75,000 from Republican National Committee, Michael Kranish, Feb. 21, 2018. The payments put former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller back in the spotlight at a time when he may be of interest to investigators regarding his knowledge of intimate actions involving Trump.

Intercept, Video: Glenn Greenwald and James Risen Debate the Trump/Russia Investigation, Feb. 21, 2018 (video). James Risen and Glenn Greenwald have both won Pulitzer Prizes. They both have found themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. government for their journalism. And they both write for The Intercept. But Jim and Glenn have taken very different approaches to covering the Trump/Russia story. In this one-hour special video edition of Intercepted, they go head-to-head in a debate.

Glenn is one of the most high-profile critics of the official story bolstered by the U.S. intelligence community, the Democrats, and many media outlets, including some of this country’s most powerful papers and news channels. Jim battled both the Bush and Obama administrations — under threat of imprisonment — for refusing to name his sources in some of the most sensitive national security reporting of the modern era.

Jim recently broke a key story on a secret NSA channel to Russia and his first column for The Intercept, about the Trump/Russia investigation, posed the question: Is Donald Trump a traitor?

Immigration Update On ‘Dreamers’

washington post logoICE logoWashington Post, How will the battle over ‘dreamers’ end? Amber Phillips, Feb. 21, 2018. Here are four scenarios. A deadline to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants is less than two weeks away, and it’s looking less and less likely that Washington will act in time to protect them. So, where does that leave the estimated 700,000 “dreamers” who could face deportation as soon as March 5?

Feb. 20

 ny times logojohn kelly o dhsNew York Times, Kushner and Kelly Grapple Over Access to Sensitive Secrets, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 20, 2018. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff (shown at right), over who should be allowed to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, according to White House officials and others briefed on the matter.

Mr. Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the F.B.I. during their background checks, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the clearances. The practice has drawn added scrutiny because of Rob Porter, the former staff secretary who resigned under pressure this month after domestic abuse allegations against him became public.

Mr. Porter’s post entailed handling and reviewing the flow of documents to and from the president, which routinely includes highly classified material. He had been allowed to continue in the job for more than a year with a stopgap clearance even though the F.B.I. had informed the White House of the damaging accusations against him.

Mr. Kushner’s clearance has afforded him access to closely guarded information, including the presidential daily brief, the intelligence summary Mr. Trump receives every day, but it has not been made permanent, and his background investigation is still pending after 13 months serving in Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

Now Mr. Kelly, his job at risk and his reputation as an enforcer of order and discipline tarnished by the scandal, is working to revamp the security clearance process, starting with an effort to strip officials who have interim clearances of their high-level access. In a memo issued on Friday, Mr. Kelly said he would revoke top clearances for anyone whose background check had been pending since June 1 or earlier, and review such clearances every month thereafter.

clarence thomas w new officialABA [American Bar Association] Journal, Woman denies harassment by Justice Thomas amid new #MeToo reporting; he decries victim culture, Debra Cassens Weiss, Feb. 20, 2018. The spotlight is once again on allegations of sexual harassment by Justice Clarence Thomas (shown in an official photo) before he joined the U.S. Supreme Court.

New York magazine has a report on the women who were not called to testify against Thomas during his confirmation hearings, while one of those women calls for Thomas’ impeachment in an opinion piece for the Huffington Post. The National Law Journal summarizes the Feb. 18 New York magazine report and calls attention to another woman who alleged in 2016 that Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999.

New York magazine also tells of reported allegations by a then-reporter at the Bureau of National Affairs to a friend that Thomas had made sexual comments to her. New York magazine said that the now-retired reporter, Nancy Montwieler, didn’t deny the allegations prior to the story’s publication. But she did after the fact in emails to both New York magazine and the National Law Journal.

“I knew Clarence Thomas in a professional capacity and never experienced any type of inappropriate behavior from him,” she wrote in an email to the National Law Journal. “Moreover, despite allegations in the article, I do not recall any conversations with Justice Thomas regarding inappropriate or nonprofessional subjects.”

Thomas, through a spokesperson, declined to comment to New York magazine and the National Law Journal; and a Supreme Court spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the National Law Journal.

anita hillThe most famous allegations against Thomas were made during the confirmation hearings by Anita Hill (shown in a file photo), who said Thomas had made sexual comments to her when she worked with him at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas denied the allegations and complained that the confirmation hearing was “a high-tech lynching.”

The Huffington Post article is by Angela Wright-Shannon, described by New York magazine as an accuser who would have been the most devastating witness against Thomas. Then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden told Teen Vogue in December that he regrets not being able to “tone down the attacks” on Hill, and said he wasn’t able to persuade three women to testify against Thomas after they changed their minds about appearing at the last minute.

New York magazine reports that the women wanted to testify, or would have testified if subpoenaed.

DC School Chancellor Resigns After Nepotism Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, D.C. Schools Chancellor Resigns Amid Outcry Over Daughter’s School Transfer, Matthrew Haag, Feb. 20, 2018. The District of Columbia schools chancellor resigned on Tuesday after support for him, including from the mayor, collapsed in recent days over the disclosure that he had arranged to have his daughter transferred to a coveted high school.

For nearly a week, the chancellor, Antwan Wilson, batted away calls for his resignation and instead vowed to stay on and work to rebuild the public’s confidence. But Mayor Muriel E. Bowser told him on Tuesday that the damage was irreversible and that he needed to step down.

Health Care Pushback From Working Poor

ny times logoNew York Times, The Heartburn Behnd Free Care for Only Some; Gwen Got Squeezed, Abby Goodnough, Feb. 20, 2018. How U..S. Health Law Pits the Poor Against the Middle Class.  Gwen Hurd got the letter just before her shift at the outlet mall. Her health insurance company informed her that coverage for her family of three, purchased through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, would cost almost 60 percent more this year — $1,200 a month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guilty Plea by Lawyer Broadens Mueller Inquiry, Sharon LaFreniere and Kennthe P. Vogel, Feb. 20, 2018. The guilty plea by the defendant, a former lawyer at a powerful New York-based law firm, broadened the scope of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russia’s election interference.

The lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, achnowldged in federal court that he lied to prosecutors about a Stepmber 2016 with Rick Gates, the former Trump aide over work they they did togther for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia. The plea also illustrates how aggressively the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has pursued those who obstruct his inquiry.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Suggests armed Teachers Get’ Bit of Bonus,’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Feb. 22, 2018. Adopting N.R.A. Stance. Mr. Trump, who said the armed teachers should receive extra pay as an incentive, promoted his idea as demands for stronger gun control intensified across the country. “You give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target,” Mr. Trump said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Administration Says Syria Forces Don’t Need New Approval, Charlie Savage, Feb. 22, 2018. The Trump administration has decided that it needs no new legal authority from Congress to indefinitely keep US military forces in Syria.

#MeToo Moment Disrupts USDA Civil Rights Ceremony

usda logo horizontal Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, USDA staffer shocks agency with public admission about sex for promotion, Joe Davidson, Feb. 20, 2018. The event at the Agriculture Department’s headquarters started like many others honoring Black History Month, but no one imagined how it would end. Rosetta Davis was among the employees listening to the program on Thursday, but she wasn’t like the others. She couldn’t take the talk about USDA being a good place to work. The emotional toll of sexual harassment and feeling her agency didn’t care could no longer be contained.

At one point during the program, which employees said was televised to department facilities across the country, Davis unexpectedly took the stage and alleged to her colleagues in emotional and specific terms how she was sexually harassed on the job. She described how a supervisor, whom she named, offered to give her a promotion to grade GS-13 in exchange for sex.

The supervisor and others are named in a lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Davis alleges USDA managers retaliated against her because of her equal employment complaints against the agency and her involvement in an investigation of whistleblower complaints involving the department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

Davis acknowledged she submitted to the supervisor’s advances in hopes of getting promoted. “I agreed to the sex,” she said in an interview.

Shortly after the program, she received a letter placing her on paid administrative leave. She was told not to use any agency facilities, not even voice mail. Furthermore, the letter added, “you and your family or close associates are prohibited from contacting any USDA employees at work or at home, to discuss any matters associated with your employment with USDA.”

Curiously, the letter indicates Davis was not placed on leave because of what she did but, apparently, because of what she might do.

“This action is not a disciplinary action, rather is taken as a precautionary measure pending further review of occurrences in the workplace on February 15, 2018,” said the letter from Thomas A. Mulhern, USDA’s director of human resources.

The notion that the leave is not a disciplinary action is “a joke,” contended Yaida Ford, Davis’s lawyer with Ford Law Pros in the District. “It’s clearly punitive in nature, and it’s retaliatory in nature.”

Trump Budget Would Whack 9/11 Responders

Consumer Affairs, Trump budget could gut agency that treats 9/11 first responders, Amy Martyn, Feb. 20, 2018. Lawmakers say a proposal to reorganize the World Trade Center Health Program is disturbing and suspicious. Amy Martyn is a writer and investigative reporter now based in San Diego by way of Tijuana, BC, Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA. She primarily writes about how consumers, taxpayers and businesses are affected by corporate and government policies.

wtc 911 center creative commonsIt took many years, multiple failed attempts in Congress, and direct lobbying from first-responders and comedian Jon Stewart. Finally, over a decade after September 11, 2001 and nine years after lawmakers had initially proposed the measure, a proposal to treat and monitor 9/11 first responders for the rest of their lives finally passed Congress.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is named for an NYPD detective and 9/11 first responder who died in 2006 from a respiratory disease linked to particulates from the Twin Towers (shown at right). The act created the World Trade Center Health Program in 2010, but funding nearly dried up after it expired under a bitter and divided Congress.

A key re-authorization that Obama signed into law in 2015 ensured that the World Trade Center Health Program would remain in place until 2090, so that sickened first responders could participate in health monitoring and receive treatment or financial compensation for the remainder of their lives.

The lawmakers who wrote the James Zadroga Act are now expressing outrage at a proposal buried in Trump’s 2019 budget to separate World Trade Center Health Program from the agency that runs it.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) administers the World Trade Center Health program as part of its mission of investigating workplace health and safety issues. That agency, in turn, falls under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but a measure in the Trump budget would move the occupational safety agency from the CDC to the National Institutes of Health, a separate agency.

The World Trade Center Health program, however, would remain within the CDC, essentially cutting the program off from many of the people who have been running it. The reason for the organizational shift is not made clear in the budget, but lawmakers say the move could have disastrous effects on the program.

Shocking and disturbing proposal

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler, (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-L.I.), the James Zadroga Act’s original sponsors, wrote in an open letter to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that they were “shocked and disturbed” by the proposal.

“If you had spoken to us, or anyone in the 9/11 healthcare community, you would have understood that the World Trade Center Health Program is fully integrated with NIOSH and there are many shared NIOSH staff whose expertise would be lost if the WTCHP is pulled from NIOSH,” they wrote, adding that the proposal “directly contradicts” legislation that Congress passed to reauthorize the act in 2015.

The World Trade Center Health program now monitors and administers treatment to the approximately 83,000 people who worked at or near Ground Zero following the September 11 terror attacks.

A toxic stew of asbestos, lead, mercury, jet fuel and other contaminants exposed thousands of people to lung diseases and cancers. The program’s website details the many illnesses plaguing people in the program, with breathing problems appearing to be the most common.

Research has also found that responders have an excessive risk of developing cancer, not just in the lungs but in the thyroid and prostate.

In an interview with Newsday, Rep. Peter King says he finds the reorganization proposal to be suspicious because White House budget director Mulvaney had voted against reauthorizing the James Zadroga Act in 2015. “This serves no purpose,” King told the paper.

U.S. Politics: Rising Star?

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Matt Gaetz wants you to know who he is, and his plan is working, Dan Zak, Feb. 20, 2018. Everybody went to high school with Matt Gaetz, in some form. You know the type. Contrarian, but well-argued. Obnoxious, but not a bully. An okay baseball player, but a much better debater: loud, fast and fearsome. Not boastful of family money, but not stealth about it either. You pictured him becoming a litigator, flashing cuff links like a sidearm, or becoming a congressman by 34 and then drafting legislation to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

matt gaetz o CustomRep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), 35, doesn’t wear cuff links. At least he is not on Valentine’s Day last week, while he’s waiting for the tiny elevator to his office in the Cannon House Office Building.

“You’ve got ‘Fox and Friends’ at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow,” his chief of staff says. “Eight fifteen?” Gaetz says, disappointed. “I usually prefer the 5 a.m. hour.” Why on Earth would anyone — even a congressman — want to be on camera before dawn? “Because the president is watching,” Gaetz says.

Another Wednesday in America. Matt Gaetz is 13 months and 11 days into his first term. He’s still on Step 1 of Operation: Disrupt Congress.

“Well, the first thing is people gotta know who you are,” he says. “If you are anonymous, you are a less capable disrupter. So, Step 1: Get known.”

What’s Step 2?

“I’ll let you know when I’m done with Step 1.”

Gaetz comes from a line of politicians. His grandfather was a mayor and state senator in North Dakota. His father, Don Gaetz, the former president of the Florida state Senate, made his money running a for-profit hospice company. His mother, Vicky Gaetz, suffered severe complications while pregnant with her second child — she’s in a wheelchair to this day — and was advised to terminate the pregnancy. She didn’t. Matt’s younger sister Erin is now 32 years old, and the reason he believes abortion should be illegal.

When Matt was 10, the family relocated from southern Florida to the Panhandle and into the house that would become Jim Carrey’s in “The Truman Show.” Dinner with the Gaetzes was intellectual combat; Don was a champion debater in college, and Matt was an imposing and memorable presence on the debate team at Niceville High School, according to classmates.

From 2010 to 2016, after Matt got a law degree, both he and his father were Florida legislators and roommates in Tallahassee.

“We call them Papa Gaetz and Baby Gaetz,” says Evalyn Narramore, chair of the Democratic Party of Escambia County, on the border with Alabama. “Even amongst Republican circles, Matt’s not super popular. He only won his primary by about 35 or 36 percent of the vote, and he had six Republican opponents. He just got in there, and of course now he’s trying to out-Trump Trump.”

“They are workers,” says Pensacola real estate developer Collier Merrill, a friend of the family. “Even when Don didn’t have an opponent, he was walking every day to knock on doors. He rose pretty fast, into Senate president. That trickled down to Matt now. All of a sudden he’s rising quickly in the ranks.”

Feb. 19

More #MeToo Government Sex Scandal Claims

washington post logorachel crooks cnnWashington Post, Trump accuser keeps telling her story, hoping someone will finally listen, Carolyn Van Houten, Feb. 19, 2018. She believed her best chance to be heard was through sheer repetition, so Rachel Crooks took her seat at the dining table and prepared to tell the story again.

She was used to difficult audiences, to skeptics and Internet trolls who flooded her Facebook page with threats, but this was a generous crowd: a dozen women, all friends of her aunt, gathered for a casual dinner party on a Friday night. The hostess turned off the music, clanked a fork against her wineglass and gestured to Crooks (shown at right). “Would you mind telling us about the famous incident?” she asked. “Not the sound-bite version, but the real version.”

“The real version,” Crooks said, nodding back. She took a sip of water and folded a napkin onto her lap.

“It all happened at Trump Tower,” she said. “I had just moved to New York, and I was working as a secretary for another company in the building. That’s where he forced himself on me.”

Crooks, 35, had been publicly reliving this story for much of the past two years, ever since she first described it in an email to the New York Times several months before the 2016 election. “I don’t know if people will really care about this or if this will matter at all,” she had written then, and after Donald Trump’s election she had repeated her story at the Women’s March, on the “Today” show and at a news conference organized by women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. Crooks had spoken to people dressed in #MeToo sweatshirts and to her rural neighbors whose yards were decorated with Trump signs. In early February, she launched a campaign to become a Democratic state representative in Ohio, in part so she could share her story more widely with voters across the state. And yet, after dozens of retellings, she still wasn’t sure: Did people really care? Did it matter at all?

Despite her story, and the similar stories of more than a dozen other women, nothing had changed. Trump, who had denied all of the accusations, was still president of the United States, and Crooks was still circling back to the same moments on Jan. 11, 2006, that had come to define so much about her life.

nicholas kettle oProvidence Journal, R.I. senator charged with 2 counts of extorting sex from former State House page, Patrick Anderson and Tom Mooney, Feb. 19, 2018. A grand jury indictment unsealed Monday accuses state Sen. Nicholas Kettle, a 27-year-old Coventry Republican (shown in an official photo), of twice coercing a Senate student page to have sex with him in 2011, Kettle’s first year in the General Assembly. The indictment accused Kettle of threatening to injure the page or harm his reputation if he did not comply.

The alleged victim was a legislative page in 2011 and 2012, when he was 16 or 17 years old. Legislative pages range in age from 15 to college-age, and run errands for the lawmakers in the State House, including shuttling paperwork and bringing water.

nicholas kettle mug CustomKettle (GOP minority whip and shown in a mug shot) was arrested Friday afternoon at his job in Richmond on a charge of video voyeurism that state police say was a result of him sharing pornographic images of his now ex-girlfriend.

State police also seized more than a dozen mobile phones, computers and hard drives from Kettle’s home and office.Regarding the voyeurism charge, court documents allege that Kettle was exchanging naked pictures of his former girlfriend with a New Hampshire friend. His former girlfriend told investigators she thought the two had known each other for a long time and had initially met in the Boy Scouts. (Kettle is an Eagle Scout.)

The documents allege Kettle’s friend also exchanged with Kettle pictures of his wife. The men talked about swapping partners and videotaping sex acts. Kettle suggested his friend should have sex with him and his girlfriend, the documents allege. The documents also allege that Kettle and his friend exchanged pictures of their genitalia.

Feb. 18

Inside Trump White House: Foreign affairs Dispute

washington post logoWashington Post, Top U.S. officials tell the world to ignore Trump’s tweets, Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte, Feb. 18, 2018. Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message for a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.

U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

But Trump himself engaged in a running counterpoint to the message, taking aim on social media at his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster (shown at right), because he “forgot” on Saturday to tell the Munich Security Conference that the results of the 2016 election weren’t affected by Russian interference, a conclusion that is not supported by U.S. intelligence agencies. They say they will probably never be able to determine whether the Russian involvement swung the election toward Trump

clarence thomas w new officialNew York Magazine, Do You Believe Her Now? Jill Abramson, Feb. 18, 2018. It’s time to reexamine the evidence that Clarence Thomas (shown at right) lied to get onto the Supreme Court — and to talk seriously about impeachment.

In the same fall night in 2016 that the infamous Access Hollywood tape featuring Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault was made public by the Washington Post and dominated the news, an Alaska attorney, Moira Smith, wrote on Facebook about her own experiences as a victim of sexual misconduct in 1999.

“At the age of 24, I found out I’d be attending a dinner at my boss’s house with Justice Clarence Thomas,” she began her post, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court justice who was famously accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill, a woman who had worked for him at two federal agencies, including the EEOC, the federal sexual-harassment watchdog.

“I was so incredibly excited to meet him, rough confirmation hearings notwithstanding,” Smith continued. “He was charming in many ways — giant, booming laugh, charismatic, approachable. But to my complete shock, he groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should ‘sit right next to him.’ When I feebly explained I’d been assigned to the other table, he groped again … ‘Are you sure?’ I said I was and proceeded to keep my distance.” Smith had been silent for 17 years but, infuriated by the “Grab ’em by the pussy” utterings of a presidential candidate, could keep quiet no more.

Tipped to the post by a Maryland legal source who knew Smith, Marcia Coyle, a highly regarded and scrupulously nonideological Supreme Court reporter for The National Law Journal, wrote a detailed story about Smith’s allegation of butt-squeezing, which included corroboration from Smith’s roommates at the time of the dinner and from her former husband. Coyle’s story, which Thomas denied, was published October 27, 2016. If you missed it, that’s because this news was immediately buried by a much bigger story — the James Comey letter reopening the Hillary Clinton email probe.

Smith, who has since resumed her life as a lawyer and isn’t doing any further interviews about Thomas, was on the early edge of #MeToo. Too early, perhaps: In the crescendo of recent sexual-harassment revelations, Thomas’s name has been surprisingly muted.

Perhaps that is a reflection of the conservative movement’s reluctance, going back decades, to inspect the rot in its power structure, even as its pundits and leaders have faced allegations of sexual misconduct. (Liberals of the present era — possibly in contrast to those of, say, the Bill Clinton era — have been much more ready to cast out from power alleged offenders, like Al Franken.)

clarence thomasBut that relative quiet about Justice Thomas (shown at left early in his career on the bench) was striking to me. After all, the Hill-Thomas conflagration was the first moment in American history when we collectively, truly grappled with sexual harassment….

But it’s well worth inspecting, in part as a case study, in how women’s voices were silenced at the time by both Republicans and Democrats and as an illustration of what’s changed — and hasn’t — in the past 27 years (or even the last year)….

But, most of all, because Thomas, as a crucial vote on the Supreme Court, holds incredible power over women’s rights, workplace, reproductive, and otherwise. His worldview, with its consistent objectification of women, is the one that’s shaping the contours of what’s possible for women in America today, more than that of just about any man alive, save for his fellow justices.

And given the evidence that’s come out in the years since, it’s also time to raise the possibility of impeachment. Not because he watched porn on his own time, of course….It’s because of the lies he told, repeatedly and under oath, saying he had never talked to Hill about porn or to other women who worked with him about risqué subject matter.

Lying is, for lawyers, a cardinal sin. State disciplinary committees regularly institute proceedings against lawyers for knowingly lying in court, with punishments that can include disbarment. Since 1989, three federal judges have been impeached and forced from office for charges that include lying. The idea of someone so flagrantly telling untruths to ascend to the highest legal position in the U.S. remains shocking, in addition to its being illegal. (Thomas, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on a detailed list of queries.)

Thomas’s lies not only undermined Hill but also isolated her. It was her word versus his — when it could have been her word, plus several other women’s, which would have made for a different media narrative and a different calculation for senators. As the present moment has taught us, women who come forward alongside other women are more likely to be believed (unfair as that might be). There were four women who wanted to testify, or would have if subpoenaed, to corroborate aspects of Hill’s story. My new reporting shows that there is at least one more who didn’t come forward. Their “Me Too” voices were silenced.

Trump Allies, Fixers

ny times logomichael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn customNew York Times, Tools of Trump’s Fixer: Payouts, Intimidation and the Tabloids, Jim Rutenberg, Megan Twohey, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Mike McIntire and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 18, 2018. As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer (shown above in a CNN appearance) relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies.

Mr. Cohen’s role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records.

They intensified as Mr. Trump’s campaign began in the summer of 2015, when a former hedge-fund manager told Mr. Cohen that he had obtained photographs of Mr. Trump with a bare-breasted woman. The man said Mr. Cohen first blew up at him, then steered him to David J. Pecker, chairman of the tabloid company, which sometimes bought, then buried, embarrassing material about his high-profile friends and allies.

School Shooting Fallout

Stanford Law School, Another Mass Shooting: An Update on U.S. Gun Laws, John J. Donohue III Q&A with Sharon Driscoll,.Feb. 18, 2018. Americans are, once again, confronting a mass shooting — this time at a school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and teachers were killed and dozens more injured, some critically, on February 14, 2018. While mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Newtown make the headlines, there are many more each year. In the Q&A that follows, Stanford Law Professor John Donohue III (shown at right) john donohuediscusses gun safety law and legislative developments.

Q: It has been reported that the suspect in the Florida school shooting purchased an assault weapon legally. Is Florida unusual in that respect — can most Americans purchase this powerful a firearm?

A: After the federal assault weapons ban lapsed in 2004, Americans who were at least 18 years of age could buy semi-automatic rifles everywhere in the United States, subject to some restrictions in a relatively small but growing number of states. For example, California, New York, Connecticut, Maryland and a number of other states have passed state assault weapons bans that prohibit at least some semi-automatic rifles, and––perhaps most importantly––restrict the number of bullets in the gun magazine to ten (as the now lapsed federal assault weapons ban had from 1994-2004). For comparison, Canada limits magazine size to five bullets.

Q: After each mass shooting there is a push to better identify mentally ill people and prevent them from purchasing firearms—and to do the same for people convicted of spousal abuse or those prone to violence. Have we had any new laws passed in Congress recently to address these issues and other measures that might help?

A: Unfortunately, no. In fact, the Trump Administration and the House of Representatives teamed up to overturn an Obama-era regulation that added 75,000 severely mentally disabled individuals who were collecting disability benefits to the existing background check system, which shows that the frequent NRA invocation that the problem is mentally ill individuals with guns is simply another part of the charade to divert attention from reasonable gun safety measures.

The only gun-control item that has garnered any possible support among Republicans is a bill that would improve aspects of the background check system. Even this bill is simply trying to make the information in the system more complete. It is not designed to take the unambiguously positive step of requiring universal background checks, which is needed if there is to be any hope of progress towards keeping guns out of the hands of identifiably dangerous individuals. Even though 93 percent of Americans in gun households favor universal background checks (as do 96 percent of those in households with no guns), gun merchants don’t want to lose gun sales to criminals, the severely mentally ill, and other prohibited purchasers, so the Republicans have fought this provision tenaciously.

Feb. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. deals fatal blow to Trump’s Russia ‘hoax,’ Philip Rucker, Feb.17, 2018. A 37-page federal indictment released Friday afternoon spells out in exhaustive detail a three-year Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy and boost Trump’s campaign. The indictment reveals that the scope of Russia’s alleged efforts to help Donald Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was extraordinary.

ny times logorussian flagNew York Times, Analysis: Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too, Scott Shane, Feb. 17, 2018. Bags of cash delivered to a Rome hotel for favored Italian candidates. Scandalous stories leaked to foreign newspapers to swing an election in Nicaragua. Millions of pamphlets, posters and stickers printed to defeat an incumbent in Serbia.

The long arm of Vladimir Putin? No, just a small sample of the United States’ history of intervention in foreign elections.

On Tuesday, American intelligence chiefs warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia appears to be preparing to repeat in the 2018 midterm elections the same full-on chicanery it unleashed in 2016: hacking, leaking, social media manipulation and possibly more. Then on Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced the indictments of 13 Russians and three companies, run by a businessman with close Kremlin ties, laying out in astonishing detail a three-year scheme to use social media to attack Hillary Clinton, boost Donald Trump and sow discord.

Most Americans are understandably shocked by what they view as an unprecedented attack on our political system. But intelligence veterans, and scholars who have studied covert operations, have a different, and quite revealing, view.

“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired in 2015 after 30 years at the C.I.A., where he was the chief of Russian operations. The United States “absolutely” has carried out such election influence operations historically, he said, “and I hope we keep doing it.”

Loch K. Johnson, the dean of American intelligence scholars, who began his career in the 1970s investigating the C.I.A. as a staff member of the Senate’s Church Committee, says Russia’s 2016 operation was simply the cyber-age version of standard United States practice for decades, whenever American officials were worried about a foreign vote.

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration assault on bipartisan immigration plan ensured its demise, David Nakamura and Mike DeBonis, Feb. 17, 2018.  As much of the country was gripped Wednesday by horrific images from the mass shooting at a Florida high school, two dozen senior Trump administration officials worked frantically into the night to thwart what they considered a different national security threat.

The looming danger on the minds of the officials was a piece of legislation scheduled for a vote the next day in the Senate. It was designed to spare hundreds of thousands of young immigrants known as “dreamers” from deportation — but to the men and women huddled in a makeshift war room in a Department of Homeland Security facility, the measure would blow open U.S. borders to lawless intruders.

Feb. 16

Trump Scandal Probes

new yorker logoThe New Yorker, Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity, Ronan Farrow, Feb. 16, 2018. One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair,

In June, 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” at the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, threw a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates, including Karen McDougal, a slim brunette who had been named Playmate of the Year, eight years earlier. In 2001, the magazine’s readers voted her runner-up for “Playmate of the ’90s,” behind Pamela Anderson. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife.’ ”

Trump and McDougal began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s. When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own.

The interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them. McDougal describes their affair as entirely consensual. But her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs — sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously — out of the press.

On November 4, 2016, four days before the election, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to McDougal’s story, which it never ran. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.” As part of the agreement, A.M.I. consented to publish a regular aging-and-fitness column by McDougal. After Trump won the Presidency, however, A.M.I.’s promises largely went unfulfilled, according to McDougal.

McDougal, in her first on-the-record comments about A.M.I.’s handling of her story, declined to discuss the details of her relationship with Trump, for fear of violating the agreement she reached with the company. She did say, however, that she regretted signing the contract. “It took my rights away,” McDougal told me. “At this point I feel I can’t talk about anything without getting into trouble, because I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I’m afraid to even mention his name.”

rob porter filePalmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Donald Trump’s White House Counsel tried so hard to cover for Rob Porter, Bill Palmer, Feb. 16, 2018. The Rob Porter scandal, which initially appeared to be a straightforward if highly disturbing story about about a White House employee (shown in a file photo) accused of serial domestic abuse, has turned out to be something much more deep and vast.

Donald Trump and the highest rungs of his administration bent over backward to try to protect Porter, despite the evidence against him. With each passing day we’re learning more about the why and how of the coverup. Now we know why the White House Counsel tried so hard to cover for Porter.

john kelly o dhsWhite House Chief of Staff John Kelly (shown at left) may have played the most egregious role in trying to cover up the Porter scandal.

But of all the Trump senior advisers who knew what was going on, White House Counsel Don McGahn appears to have known about it the longest. That seemed strange, considering he’s the lawyer for the White House, and it’s his job to prevent these kinds of legal liabilities from becoming problems. As it turns out, this comes down to security clearances. Porter could’t get one, and as it turns out, McGahn doesn’t have one either.

don mcgahn cato screengrabAccording to a stunning new report from NBC News (Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances), McGahn spent at least his first ten months in the White House without being able to obtain a security clearance for himself. It’s confirmed that as of November 2017, he still didn’t have clearance. No one is willing to say if he’s since gained clearance, which suggests he may still not have it. So what on earth did his background check turn up that would red flag him?

It’s fairly easy to understand why Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner have been unable to pass a background check and obtain permanent security clearance. But what the heck is hiding in White House Counsel Don McGahn’s past that would cause him to fail a background check? In any case, McGahn appears to have been keeping Porter’s failed background check a secret because he didn’t want his own failed background check to come to light. It has anyway.

More On School Shootings

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Shooting Suspect Displayed Flashes of Rage and Other Warning Signs, Richard Fasset and Serge F. Kovaleski, Feb. 16, 2018. Counts of Murder for Ex-Student. Mr. Cruz, the suspect in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, had no criminal history. But his childhood was certainly difficult

ny times logoNew York Times, The Toll Since Sandy Hook: More than 400 People Short, In Over 200 School Shootings, Jugal K. Patel, Feb. 16, 2018. When a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it rattled Newtown, Conn., and reverberated across the world.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtubeThe New Yorker reports that Karen McDougal, show in a photo drawn from YouTube with President Trump, was paid $150,000 by American Media, Inc., for her story about an affair with the married future president Trump in 2006

washington post logoWashington Post, Salacious new claims surface about a Trump affair and alleged coverup, Beth Reinhard, Frances Stead Sellers and Alice Crites, Feb. 16, 2018. President Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs attracted fresh attention Friday amid new claims about a nine-month relationship with a former Playboy centerfold who was reportedly paid $150,000 by a tabloid publisher who never ran her story.

karen mcdougal playboyThe alleged liaison with 1998 “Playmate of the Year” Karen McDougal was described in an article in the New Yorker. It is said to have included a July 2006 sexual encounter during a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament where two adult film stars also claim Trump made sexual advances.

The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that McDougal was paid by American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, for the exclusive rights to her story. The New Yorker article contained new details about the alleged affair, as well as what it said were months-long negotiations with AMI during the 2016 campaign.

The White House declined to comment. Keith Davidson, the attorney who the magazine said orchestrated the payment during the 2016 campaign, also represents Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, one of the porn stars who also claims to have been with Trump at the golf tournament.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Institutions can’t save America from Trump, Quinta Jurecic, Feb. 16, 2018. Quinta Jurecic is the deputy managing editor of Lawfare. Americans are rallying around institutions as a means of opposing the president — but also out of a desperate desire for truth and accountability as correctives to the constant chaos of Trump. Yet these institutions can’t provide the salvation people seek. And by setting expectations that are almost certain to be unmet, those who oppose the president may end up diminishing faith in America’s institutions, too.

The only way out of the Trump presidency’s constant upheaval of morality and knowledge and meaning, its destruction of the world we share as citizens, is nothing more or less than politics.

Feb. 15

Trump Scandal Claims

nbc news logoNBC News, Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances, Carol E. Lee, Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker and Rich Gardella,
Feb. 15, 2018 (2:09 min. video). More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.

Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance.

White House officials said Wednesday they would not comment, as is their policy, on the nature of security clearances. CNN also reported on the clearances earlier Wednesday evening. It is unclear whether some employees have had their clearance levels changed since mid-November.

The documents also show that 10 months into Trump’s administration, at least 85 political appointees in the White House, vice president’s office and National Security Council were working without permanent security clearances. About 50 appointees were operating with interim security clearances while serving in offices closely linked to the West Wing, such as the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Trade Representative and the White House executive residence.

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookWhite House officials who are listed as not having permanent security clearances as recently as this past November include Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser (the two are shown together on a foreign affairs trip last July); Dan Scavino, the president’s director of social media; and Christopher Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives; according to the documents.

All four are listed as operating with interim clearances only for information classified as “top secret” and “TS/SCI,” which is shorthand for “top secret, sensitive compartmented information.”

One of the president’s central arguments against his Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election was that Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information not only disqualified her but was grounds for imprisonment.

washington post logochristopher wray officialWashington Post, White House reslsts as FBI director rebuts Porter timeline, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 15, 2018 (print edition). FBI Director Christopher A. Wray’s direct contradiction of the White House’s official version of how it handled domestic violence allegations against senior aide Rob Porter plunged the West Wing into a deeper bout of infighting and heightened the uncertainty about Chief of Staff John Kelly’s future in the administration.

Wray is shown at right in his official photo and below in a Justice Department photo at his swearing in ceremony on Aug. 2, 2017. With him is his wife, Holly Howell, and Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions.

christopher wray helen howell aug 2 2017 doj photo cropped

trey gowdy SmallRoll Call, Gowdy Launches Oversight Investigation Into Rob Porter Scandal, Griffin Connolly, Feb 15, 2018 (print edition). ‘How in the Hell was he still employed?’ House Oversight Committee chairman asks. The House Committee on Oversight and Government reform has launched an investigation into the White House’s handling of senior aide Rob Porter, who was not issued a permanent security clearance due to allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives.

“Who knew what, when, and to what extent? Those are the questions that I think ought to be asked,” the committee’s chairman, GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina(shown above right) said Wednesday on CNN.

Another U.S. School Massacre

school shooting Custom

Students evacuate the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida following a massacre

ny times logoNew York Times, What Congress Has Accomplished Since the Sandy Hook Massacre, Editorial board, Feb. 15, 2018. More than five years have passed since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed. In that time, dozens of gun control proposals have been introduced in Congress attempting to fix glaring issues with gun safety and regulation. More than 1,600 mass shootings have taken place in America since then. Here is a guide to what Congress has — or, more accurately, has not — accomplished during this time.

New York Post, Suspected Florida gunman went to Subway, McDonald’s after massacre, Joe Tacopino, Feb. 15, 2018. The confessed shooter who killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School stopped by Subway sandwich shop and a McDonald’s after committing the mass murder, authorities said Thursday.

nikolas cruzNikolas Cruz, 19, fled the school by dropping his weapon and blending in with other students before ducking into a Walmart and then heading to a Subway to purchase a drink, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference.

Cruz then entered the McDonald’s at 3:01 p.m. and sat in the fast food restaurant for a period of time before taking off on foot, Israel said. At 3:41 p.m. Cruz was taken into custody by a local police officer without incident.

Related story: New York Post, These are the innocent victims of the Florida school shooting, Laura Italiano, Feb. 15, 2018. Suspect Nikolas Cruz is shown abov e in a police mugshot along with a photo of students marching safely from the school in a line.

washington post logoWashington Post, For shooting suspect, a life of guns, depression and trouble, William Wan, David Weingrad, Fred Barbash and Mark Berman​, Feb. 15, 2018. Nikolas Cruz had reportedly been fighting depression before and after his adoptive mother died in November, and had a fascination with guns, those who know him say.

Authorities confirmed that Cruz bought the AR-15 himself, and it is the only gun that has been recovered as part of the investigation, said Peter J. Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“He purchased the firearm legally,” Forcelli said in an interview Thursday morning. “No laws were broken in his acquisition of the firearm.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The AR-15: ‘America’s rifle’ or illegitimate killing machine? Marc Fisher, Feb. 15, 2018. The AR-15: ‘America’s rifle’ or illegitimate killing machine? The AR-15, the military-style rifle that a gunman used to kill 17 people at a South Florida high school Wednesday, is at once a ferociously powerful weapon, a symbol of freedom and individualism, and an object of despairing worry about the future of democracy.

It is, depending on which political and social camp you belong to, “America’s rifle,” a way to “Control Your Destiny” or a killing machine that has no legitimate place in civilian life.

Every time a young man shoots up a school or other public gathering spot, the nation falls into a vituperative debate about whether the shooter’s weapon and the culture surrounding it are a pernicious, uniquely American problem in need of swift remedy.

washington post logoscott israel broward sheriff CustomWashington Post, At least 17 killed in Florida school shooting; suspect in custody, Moriah Balingit, Sarah Larimer and Mark Berman​, Feb. 15, 2018 (print edition). A dozen people were killed inside the school, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (shown in a screenshot) told reporters Wednesday evening. Three more died outside, and two others at area hospitals. The suspect was identified as Nicolas Cruz, 19, who had been expelled from the school.

Earlier in the day, Dan Booker, a fire chief from a nearby city, had said that the number of injured could stretch much higher, estimating 20 to 50 victims. Some of those injured are students who were shot, Booker said. Booker said he was seeking aid from the Coast Guard and other agencies because many victims will need to be transported by helicopter.

Inside Washington

ny times logodjt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017New York Times, Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to First Lady’s Adviser, Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel, Feb. 15, 2018. President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday.

The nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, had been under pressure from liberal government watchdog groups to reveal how it spent the record $107 million it had raised from wealthy donors and corporations.

Its chairman, Thomas J. Barrack Jr. (shown below left), a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, had pledged that the committee would be thrifty with its spending, and would donate leftover funds to charity.

tom barrackheadshotBut the mandatory tax return it filed with the Internal Revenue Service indicates that the group’s charitable donations included only an already publicized $3 million for hurricane relief, plus a total of $1.75 million to groups involved in decorating and maintaining the White House and the vice president’s residence.

The 116-page filing indicates that the overwhelming majority of the funds went toward expenses related to the inauguration, with the biggest share — nearly $51 million — split roughly evenly between two companies.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Public confrontations prompted Pruitt to switch to first-class travel, EPA says, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Feb. 15, 2018. An incident in May involved “threatening” and “vulgar” language, the agency said in justifying Administrator Scott Pruitt’s costly travel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Shifting Stories on Porter Prolong Crisis for White House, Peter Baker, Feb. 15, 2018. The rule of thumb for crisis communications is to get the facts out quickly. But President Trump’s White House has thrown out the rule book in its handling of the resignation of Rob Porter, the staff secretary who was accused of abuse.

ny times logoNew York Times, Riding an Untamed Horse: Priebus Opens Up on Serving Trump, Peter Baker, Feb. 15, 2018. Reince Priebus, the president’s first White House chief of staff, said his tenure was even more arduous than outsiders knew. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” he writes in a new book.

More On U.S. Bombing Of Russians In Syria

maria zakharova feb 14 2018 tass cropSouthFront, Russian Foreign Ministry Preliminary Confirms Death Of 5 Russian Citizens In U.S. Airstrikes In Syria, Staff report, Feb. 15, 2018. On Feb. 14, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova de facto confirmed the death of 5 Russian citizens as a result of the February 7 U.S. airstrikes on government forces in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor.

“According to preliminary data, as a result of the armed conflict, the reasons for which are now being clarified, five people, presumably Russian citizens, could have been killed. There are also injured people, but all this requires verification — in particular, first of all, their citizenship — whether they are all citizens of Russia or other countries. I would like to stress once again that we are not talking about Russian servicemen,” the diplomat said during a press briefing.

Zakharova clarfified that the killed persons were not Russian military servicemen and described repots about “mass” casualties among the Russians as fake news. “There is a large number of citizens from all regions of the world, including Russia and CIS countries, in the conflict zones. The purposes for their stay in war zones are different, including participation in hostilities,” Zakharova added.

Senate Can’t Pass Immigration Bills

Roll Call, Four Up, Four Down on Senate Immigration Proposals, Staff report, Feb. 15, 2018. Bipartisan, Democratic, Republican amendments all blocked. The Senate voted down all four immigration proposals in front of it on Thursday, failing to cut off debate on each one of them and leaving the chamber at a loss on how to proceed, eventually, on the high-profile issue.

john mccain 2009 wFirst up was a motion to cut off debate on a proposal from Arizona Republican John McCain (shown in a file photo) and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons to provide conditional permanent residence to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program if they meet certain qualifications, and would authorize $110 million annually, for fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2022, for grants for border security activities in states with international or maritime borders.

It would also authorize the construction of additional ports of entry along U.S. borders and would create temporary immigration judge and Board of Immigration Appeals staff attorney positions, to exist through fiscal 2020.

The Senate rejected that 52-47, with 60 votes required to advance the measure.

Trump: Congress Must Accept His Terms On Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Senators Strike Bipartisan Deal on Immigration Despite Veto Threat, Sheryl Gay Stolber and Michael D. Shear, Feb. 15, 2018 (print edition). A broad bipartisan group of senators reached agreement Wednesday on a narrow rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws that would bolster border security and resolve the fate of the so-called Dreamers, even as President Trump suggested he would veto any plan that does not adhere to his harder-line approach.

Their compromise legislation sets up a clash pitting the political center of the Senate against Mr. Trump and the Republican congressional leadership.
The bipartisan measure, sponsored by eight Democrats, eight Republicans and one independent, would appropriate $25 billion for border security, including construction of the president’s proposed wall at the Mexican border, over a 10-year period — not immediately, as Mr. Trump demands.

It would also offer an eventual path to citizenship, over 10 to 12 years, for 1.8 million of the young undocumented immigrants, but would preclude them from sponsoring their parents to become citizens. It would make no changes to the diversity visa lottery system, which Mr. Trump wants to end.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Threatens to Veto Immigration Bills that Don’t Meet His Demands, Michael D. Shear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Feb. 15, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Wednesday called on lawmakers to oppose a series of bipartisan efforts to address immigration and resolve the fate of the so-called “Dreamers,” demanding fealty to his hard-line approach and increasing the odds of political gridlock as the Senate debates the issue.

chuck grassley oSenators in both parties are racing against a self-imposed, end-of-the-week deadline to write legislation that could win broad support by increasing border security while at the same time offering a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children.

But in a morning statement, Mr. Trump urged senators to oppose any bill that did not also embrace the “four pillars” of his immigration approach, which includes a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws that would close the country’s borders to many immigrants trying to come to the United States legally.

“I am asking all senators, in both parties, to support the Grassley bill and to oppose any legislation that fails to fulfill these four pillars,” Mr. Trump said in the statement, referring to the measure’s chief sponsor, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa (shown above right).

While the president’s support of the Iowa Republican’s bill is not surprising, his vague promise not to support other bills is notable, as Mr. Trump told lawmakers last month that he would sign any immigration bill that Congress sends him.

Trump’s Mixed Message On Demestic Violence

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Trump and Pence made peculiar statements on Wednesday. You should listen closely, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Feb. 15, 2018 (video). Over a week after the Rob Porter scandal broke, President Trump felt obliged to issue a statement.

What came out was the most grudging, nonspecific utterance you could imagine. Indeed, he sounded resentful in having to address the issue at all. “I’m totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that. And it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So, now you hear it, but you all know.” Everyone knows that. But, until now, we had not heard the president say it. What was more revealing was that he did not say any of the following:

  • I won’t tolerate any abuser in my administration.
  • We must encourage women to come forward and believe them when they do.
  • I believe Rob Porter’s ex-wives.
  • We should not have people with a history of spousal abuse in high government positions.

Nope, he didn’t express any of these sentiments, which in any other administration would never be questioned. Trump, however, has a troubling past.

Feb. 14

Waste, Fraud and Abuse?

washington post logodavid shulkinWashington Post, Veterans Affairs chief, staff misled ethics officials about European trip, report finds, Lisa Rein​, Feb. 14, 2018. The chief of staff to Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin (shown at right) doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general has found.

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnnwashington post logostormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomWashington Post, Longtime Trump attorney says he made $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels with his money, Feb. 14, 2018. Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo above) did not say why he paid the money to the adult-film star (shown at right on an In Touch Magzine cover last month) — who says she had an affair with President Trump — or whether Trump reimbursed him or knew about the payment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s lawyer goes off the deep end, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2018. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on obstruction of justice charges against Donald Trump, we’ve seen Trump and his allies take increasingly desperate swings and misses in recent weeks, in the hope of fending off the inevitable.

djt stormy daniels screengrabNow Trump’s lawyer is trying what can only be described as a desperate last ditch gambit, and it’s difficult to see how this is going to work out well for either of them.Trump’s affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels (shown at right in a file photo separate from Trump’s) was a crime against his wife Melania, but not part of the Trump-Russia criminal probe.

However, Trump’s $130,000 payoff to keep Daniels quiet about it is a legal matter. It’s been established that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen created a phony company in Delaware in order to keep Trump’s name off the transaction. That’s still not necessarily illegal, but the trouble is that the money appears to have come from Trump’s campaign finances, which would be a violation of federal law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s military parade would cost between $10 million and $30 million, Mulvaney says, Erica Werner​, Feb. 14, 2018. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney also said the administration hasn’t yet budgeted for a parade in Washington and would rely on Congress to appropriate funds or find other money that hasn’t already been appropriated.

Global News: Israel, South Africa

ny times logobenjamin netanyahu frownNew York Times, Netanyahu, Defiant, Calls Bribery Case ‘Full of Holes,’ David M. Halbfinger, Feb. 14, 2018. Fighting back against a police recommendation that he be prosecuted on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown at right)  vowed not to resign.

ny times logosouth africa flag after 1994New York Times, Resigns as South Africa’s President, Norimitsu Onishi, Feb. 14, 2018. Mr. Zuma survived a string of scandals, but eventually his party repudiated him. Cyril Ramaphosa is in line to be the next leader of the country.

Honest Elections: Courts, Lawmakers Fight Over Gerrymandering

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Judges Call for New Maps; Lawmakers Call for New Judges, Michael Wines, Feb. 14, 2018. Legislative unhappiness over a court ruling on Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered congressional map highlights a growing trend toward punishing courts for controversial rulings.

Media Criticism: Foreign Affairs

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Analysis: A New York Times Fairy Tale, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), Feb. 14, 2018. Frank Bruni, columnist for the New York Times, is outraged — outraged! — that people are comparing Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, to Ivanka Trump, the daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump. Both women are part of their respective governmental delegations to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

In his NYT column yesterday , Bruni expressed outrage that people would make such a comparison and, even worse, that they would actually compare North Korea and the United States. He believes that while North Korea is “rotten to the core,” America, under Trump, is only “in a rotten moment.”

Notice how Bruni conflates the government and the country in both North Korea and the United States. Like many North Koreans, who themselves are the victims of a state educational system, Bruni is obviously mentally unable to separate out the two entities.

That mindset obvious inures to the benefit of the U.S. government. If North Korea is “rotten to the core,” then it’s no big deal to kill everyone in North Korea should war break out there.

British Court Again Threatens Assange

ny times logojulian assange august 2014 wNew York Times, Julian Assange’s Arrest Warrant Is Again Upheld by U.K. Judge, Richard Pérez-Peña and Iliana Magra, Feb. 14, 2018 (print edition). In her second ruling in a week against the WikiLeaks founder, Judge Emma Arbuthnot suggested that Mr. Assange, shown in a 2014 photo, should leave the Ecuadorean Embassy to face a bail-jumping charge.

Media: Times Sacks New Columnist

ny times logoNew York Times, After Storm Over Tweets, The Times and a New Hire Part Ways, Jim Windolf, Feb. 14, 2018 (print edition). On Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times announced that it had hired Quinn Norton, a journalist and an essayist known for her work at Wired magazine, as the editorial board’s lead opinion writer on technology.

On Tuesday evening, Ms. Norton said in a Twitter post that she would no longer be joining The Times. Between the two statements, a social media storm had erupted, with Ms. Norton at the center of it, because of her use of slurs on Twitter and her friendship with Andrew Auernheimer, who gained infamy as an internet troll going by the name “weev.” Mr. Auernheimer now works for The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website.

James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The Times, said in a statement on Tuesday night: “Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways.”

Ms. Norton, who did not immediately reply to a request for comment, said in her Twitter post: “I’m sorry I can’t do the work I wanted to do with them. I wish there had been a way, but ultimately, they need to feel safe with how the net will react to their opinion writers.”

Former Afghan Leader Accuses U.S. of Pro-ISIS Actions

washington post logohamid karzai 2009 wikimediaWashington Post, Hamid Karzai’s dark theories are gaining traction in Afghanistan, Pamela Constable. Feb. 14, 2018. He has long been dismissed by critics as a cranky, embittered has-been, given to provocative rants against the American government whose might and money sustained his government for years — and whose relationship with him eventually soured into a recrimination-filled frost.

But former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (shown in a 2009 photo) is not finished yet. The cagey politician and onetime Western protege, 60, maintains a wide circle of contacts from his artfully appointed, steel-walled compound in the Afghan capital. And as the current government struggles to cope with relentless violence by the Taliban and ­Islamic State amid a tangle of domestic political battles, Karzai’s criticisms are beginning to gain an audience in Afghanistan.

His theories often sound conspiratorial and his proposals self-serving. It is not always easy to tell whether he believes his more far-fetched assertions, such as that the United States is secretly supporting the Islamic State offshoot in Afghanistan to justify establishing a large permanent military presence, dominate the country and control the volatile surrounding region. American and Afghan special operations forces have been fighting together against Islamic State militants since 2014, and the U.S. and NATO continue to train and equip Afghan security forces. U.S. military officials say their long-term intentions are to establish a bulwark here against Islamist extremism and foreign aggression in a strategic neighborhood that includes Russia, Iran and China.

“The United States is not here to go to a party,” Karzai said in a recent interview with The Washington Post, sipping espresso in his book-lined study. “There is no need for them to build so many bases just to defeat a few Taliban. They are here because all the great American rivals are in the neighborhood, and we happen to be here, too. They are welcome to stay but not to deceive us.”

Feb. 13

Trump Financial Conflicts Catalogued

donald trump tax wall street partyForbes, Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict of Interest Is Hiding in Plain Sight, Dan Alexander, Feb. 13, 2018 (Feb. 28 print edition)  How tangled is it all? Forbes discovered one deal, previously unreported, in which Trump partially serves as his own landlord: The U.S. government is paying some rent to the person who runs it.

The largest American office of China’s largest bank sits on the 20th floor of Trump Tower, six levels below the desk where Donald Trump built an empire and wrested a presidency. It’s hard to get a glimpse inside. There do not appear to be any public photos of the office, the bank doesn’t welcome visitors, and a man guards the elevators downstairs–one of the perks of forking over an estimated $2 million a year for the space.

Trump Tower officially lists the tenant as the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, but make no mistake who’s paying the rent: the Chinese government, which owns a majority of the company. And while the landlord is technically the Trump Organization, make no mistake who’s cashing those millions: the president of the United States, who has placed day-to-day management with his sons but retains 100% ownership.

This lease expires in October 2019, according to a debt prospectus obtained by Forbes. So if you assume that the *Trumps want to keep this lucrative tenant, then Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. could well be negotiating right now over how many millions the Chinese government will pay the sitting president. Unless he has already taken care of it: In September 2015 then-candidate Trump boasted to Forbes that he had “just renewed” the lease, around the time he was gearing up his campaign.

china flag SmallIt’s a conflict of interest unprecedented in American history. But hardly unanticipated. The Founding Fathers specifically built this contingency into the Constitution through the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from accepting gifts, titles or “emoluments” from foreign governments. In Federalist 75, Alexander Hamilton framed the threat thus: “An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth.”

The real money in the Trump empire comes from commercial tenants like the Chinese bank. Forbes estimates these tenants pay a collective $175 million a year or so to the president. And they do so anonymously. Federal laws, drafted without envisioning a real estate billionaire as president, require Trump to publicly disclose the shell companies he owns — but not the hundreds of businesses pouring money into them or even the extent of the money involved.

walter shaub“The public reading the [disclosure] form doesn’t know who is paying the president,” says Walter Shaub (shown at right), who resigned as the federal government’s top ethics official in July. The president likes it that way. Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization would provide a list of the president’s tenants, much less reveal what they pay. Instead, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten provided a statement: “Following the election, the Trump Organization implemented a rigorous vetting process for all transactions, including leases, which includes a detailed review and approval by our chief compliance officer and outside ethics advisor.” In other words, government ethics officials, charged with detecting conflicts of interest, have never seen the president’s rent roll.

So we created one on our own, identifying 164 tenants, in virtually every industry, from all around the world, and then estimated payments, wherever possible, based on property records, debt prospectuses and conversations with real estate experts. (See chart, p. 91.)

The numbers are significant: $21 million here, $12 million there. The names even more so: At least 36 of Trump’s tenants have meaningful relationships with the federal government, from contractors to lobbying firms to regulatory targets. How tangled is it all? Forbes discovered one deal, previously unreported, in which Trump partially serves as his own landlord: The U.S. government is paying some rent to the person who runs it.

FBI Chief Challenges White House Account On Aide’s Security

djt rob porter famous mormons Custom

On June 1, White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, 40, assists President Trump with Vice President Pence (r) and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

ny times logochristopher wray cropped SmallNew York Times, F.B.I. Contradicts White House on Porter Timeline, Michael D. Shear, Feb. 13, 2018. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, contradicted on Tuesday the White House timeline about the domestic abuse scandal involving Rob Porter, the president’s former staff secretary. Mr. Wray (shown in a file photo) said that the bureau delivered to the White House a partial report on problems in Mr. Porter’s background in March, months earlier than the White House has admitted receiving the information.

Mr. Porter, one of President Trump’s top aides, was forced to resign last week after allegations of abuse by his two ex-wives were made public, sparking a week of shifting explanations by White House officials about who knew about Mr. Porter’s past and when they knew it.

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Wray did not disclose the contents of the bureau’s inquiry. But he said that after the partial report in March, the F.B.I. gave the White House “a completed background investigation” in late July. He said the bureau received a request for a “follow-up inquiry” and provided more information about Mr. Porter’s background to the White House in November.

Related story: washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, FBI followed protocol in security clearance for ex-White House aide, director says, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris​, Feb. 13, 2018.​ Bureau Director Christopher A. Wray’s testimony before a Senate panel comes as the White House tries to deflect criticism over its handling of a security clearance for senior aide, Rob Porter, who stepped down last week after being accused of spousal abuse.

At the same hearing, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified that he expects Russia will continue to use propaganda, false personas and other tactics to undermine this year’s midterm elections.

colbie holderness rob porter Custom

Images of Colbie Holderness after an alleged incident with her then-husband Rob Porter in the early 2000s. (Courtesy of Colbie Holderness)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rob Porter is my ex-husband. Here’s what you should know about abuse, Colbie Holderness, Feb. 13, 2018 (print edition). .
Colbie Holderness was the first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that she has no reason not to believe statements that Jennifer Willoughby and I have made about our ex-husband, former White House aide Rob Porter. I actually appreciated her saying that she at least did not not believe us.

rob porter fileBut I was dismayed when Conway, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” went on to say that she does not fear for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating Porter (shown at right). “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”

Borrowing Conway’s words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman. But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ.

Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.

For me, living in constant fear of Rob’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth. I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me. (Rob has denied the abuse, but Willoughby and I know what happened.)

Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation. When Rob’s now ex-girlfriend reached out to both Willoughby and me, she described her relationship in terms we each found familiar, immediately following up her description with “Am I crazy?” Boy, I could identify with that question.

Then there is the just-as-serious issue of being believed and supported by those you choose to tell. Sometimes people don’t believe you. Sometimes they have difficulty truly understanding what you are trying to tell them. Both Willoughby and I raised our cases with clergy. Both of us had a hard time getting them to fully address the abuse taking place. It wasn’t until I spoke to a professional counselor that I was met with understanding.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Kelly needs to come clean, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Feb. 13, 2018.​ Now it appears that for days Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (below left) and his subordinates misled the American people, and perhaps the president, in making it appear that john kelly o dhsRob Porter still had the potential to be granted a final clearance.

This is false, raising the question as to why, knowing that he could not qualify for such a clearance, Porter would be kept on and given continued access (we presume) to top classified material.

U.S. Critic and ‘Ally’ Leader Accused Of Corruption

washington post logobenjamin netanyahu frownWashington Post, Israeli police recommend indictment of Netanyahu on corruption charges, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, Feb. 13, 2018.​ The announcement regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown at right in a file photo) follows an investigation into gifts allegedly given in exchange for political favors and allegations of a deal with an Israeli publisher for favorable coverage. The recommendation has been passed to Israel’s attorney general, who now must decide whether to issue the indictment.

Inside Washington

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookPolitico, Analysis: Jared Kushner credit line debts increased in 2017, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 13, 2018. Jared Kushner, a White House aide and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, appears to have drawn more money out of three separate lines of credit in the months after he joined the White House last year, a newly released document shows.

Recent revisions to the financial disclosure form filed by Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump (shown with her husband on an international trip last July), bumped up each of those debts to a range of $5 million to $25 million.

Versions of the couple’s disclosures made public in July valued those debts at $1 million to $5 million apiece. The loans were extended by three banks: Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Signature Bank.

Taken together, the sequence of filings indicates that the increases in the amounts outstanding under the lines of credit took place between last March, when Kushner’s form was first submitted, and June, when Ivanka Trump’s was first filed. The forms report the value of assets and debts in broad ranges. It’s possible the amounts outstanding have changed categories since last June.

washington post logojeff flake oWashington Post, Trump calls immigration debate ‘last chance’ for action as Senate weighs competing plans, Ed O’Keefe, Feb. 13, 2018.​ As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) unveiled a plan to address the fate of young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” and boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, supporters of a proposal backed by President Trump say theirs is the only one that can prevail.

Politico, Opinion: Sponsor An Immigrant Yourself,  No, really: A new kind of visa would let individual Americans — instead of corporations — reap the economic benefits of migration. Eric Posner and Gleny Weyl, Feb. 13, 2018.

The raw emotions generated by immigration policy — provoked by heartrending stories of families torn apart by deportation, or citizens murdered by illegal immigrants — have scrambled political allegiances and confused public debate. Republicans, usually the champions of family values and small government, now want to restrict family reunification and give bureaucrats the power to screen people who want to enter the country. Democrats, traditionally the allies of the working class, want big business to select immigrants and have given scant attention to the legitimate interests of working-class natives.

We need a new immigration system that offers liberal admission policies but targets its benefits to native workers rather than corporations. Under this new system, all citizens would have the right to sponsor a migrant for economic purposes. According to our calculations, a typical family of four could boost its income by $10,000 to 20,000 by hosting migrants.

Eric Posner is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Glen Weyl works at Microsoft Research and teaches at Yale. “Their book, Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society,” will be published in the spring.

Politico Editor’s note, echoed by JIP’s editor: This article, and particularly its original headline (“What If You Could Get Your Own Immigrant?”), was offensive to many readers. We changed the headline on Tuesday night to better reflect the authors’ intent, and asked them to respond to the criticism, but they declined. Politico Magazine has always been a platform for a wide range of views, and we do not endorse the opinions expressed in any article we publish.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sarah Huckabee Sanders is at her worst at a strange time — when she’s talking about respect for women, Margaret Sullivan, Feb. 13, 2018.​  A briefing on Monday showed the press secretary’s trademark disrespect for reporters and represented a new rock bottom from the podium at the Trump White House. And that is really saying something.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotAnd that is really saying something, given the lying-from-day-one reign of Sean Spicer, along with Sanders’s own fulsome history of dissembling, and the 10-day flameout of Anthony Scaramucci last summer.

With her dismissive gestures, her curled-lip sneers, her ready insults and guilt-free lies, Sanders is a conduit — a tool — for Trump’s own abusive relationship with journalists. Does it really make sense to keep coming back for more?

Law, Politics Around the Nation: A Young Siegelman Runs In Alabama

joseph siegelman don siegelmanDemocratic candidate for Alabama attorney general Joseph Siegelman, left, and his father, former Alabama Governor and Attorney Gen. Don Siegelman

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Joseph Siegelman’s run for attorney general of Alabama must have some of the state’s nastiest political animals nursing quivery rectums, Roger Shuler, Feb. 13, 2018. Last week’s announcement that Joseph Siegelman had qualified to run as Alabama attorney general has the makings of perhaps the most intriguing political news in . . . well, ever, at least in the 40 years I’ve had connections to the state.

As the son of former governor Don Siegelman, Joseph has a perspective on the “justice system” that probably is unique in post-modern America. His father was the target of likely the most flagrant political prosecution in U.S. history, and that surely has had a profound impact on Joseph Siegelman. What’s it like to watch your dad shipped off to federal prison for six-plus years, for what we’ve called “a crime that doesn’t exist” — in a case that prosecutors brought almost one full year after the statute of limitations had expired?

It’s hard for us to answer that question with certainty, but we suspect Joseph Siegelman would take his role as AG with the utmost seriousness. We suspect he would have plenty of motivation to investigate his father’s case — to ensure that justice delayed is not justice denied. And we suspect he would have a strong interest in deterrence, to make sure that future political thugs think twice before concocting a scheme like the one that sent two innocent men — Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy — to prison.

Joseph Siegelman surely will make a public statement to this effect: “I’m not seeking this office in order to gain justice for my dad or my family. My goal is to represent the interests of all Alabamians, to help provide us with a justice system that we can trust and respect.” But the truth is this: The Don Siegelman case helped turn Alabama into a judicial and legal sewer, and it’s unlikely the state ever can move forward unless the rule of law is restored. And Joseph Siegelman might be the only person who is willing, and capable, of turning over the rocks necessary to expose the bad actors in his father’s case and hold them accountable.

We suspect the mere thought of Joseph Siegelman in the AG’s office is enough to make some prominent sphincters pretty tight in Alabama right now. And we think that is a good thing — an extremely good thing.

JIP Editor’s Note: Former newspaper reporter and University of Alabama communications office staffer Roger Shuler has written hundreds of blog posts beginning in 2007 about injustices in the Siegelman trial. The former governor Siegelman and Republican businessman Scrushy were convicted of charges that donations by Scrushy’s firm to a non-profit co-founded by Siegelman were illegal despite vast numbers of legal irregularities approved by the Republican trial judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery. Fuller later resigned his lifetime appointment under a cloud of suspicion for wife-beating and other scandal. Shuler and his wife moved out of state following a series of legal battles, including Shuler’s jailing for five months on contempt of court charges in 2013 arising out of his columns accusing high-level figures of sex scandal and corruption.

alice martin croppedIn related news, Don Siegelman was released on Feb. 13 from a hospital for recovery at home following open heart surgery Friday. A Free Don, a Facebook site maintained by his supporters, has long reported news of his case, including showings of Atticus and the Architect, a recent documentary film by Steve Wimberly portraying Siegelman as an “Atticus Finch” character and former Bush White House senior advisor Karl Rove as the “architect” of political prosecutions around the nation, primarly to destroy Democractic political leaders like Siegelman. Rove has denied wrongdoing. .

Also, Siegelman’s first Bush administration federal prosecutor, former Alabama Northern District U.S. Attorney Alice Martin of Birmingham (shown at right), is contending for the GOP 2018 nomination to be Alabama’s attorney general. Federal authorities in the Bush Administration found a new prosecutor, Leura Canary, and new judge to convict Siegelman in 2006 after U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon issued numerous rulings against Martin’s team in the 2004 Siegelman prosecution.

Clemon later told this editor that Martin’s prosecution of Siegelman on corruption charges as the most baseless prosecution that he had witnessed in his 30 years on the federal bench. Part of the controversy later surrounding the Siegelman case stemmed from sworn statements in 2007 by Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson — statements always ignored, denied or otherwise covered up by the U.S. Justice Department — that a powerful GOP political and business leader, William Canary, had said in 2002 that he intended to use his “girls” (which Simpson interpreted to mean Canary’s wife Leura Canary and Alice Martin), to keep the Democrat Don Siegelman out of politics by criminal prosecutions.  

Feb. 12

Trump Budget Plans

washington post logoWashington Post, White House budget calls for increase in defense spending and cuts to safety net, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, Feb. 12, 2018. The tax and spending proposal would fail to eliminate the budget deficit after 10 years, the first public acknowledgment by the Trump administration that large spending increases and Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut plan are putting severe pressure on the government’s debt levels.

Unveiling of Obama Portraits By Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Institution, Watch the unveiling of President and Mrs. Obama’s portraits, Staff report, Feb. 12, 2018. The two portraits were commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Artist Kehinde Wiley — best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans — was selected to create President Obama’s portrait. Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, was selected to paint Mrs. Obama.

bo portrait gallery portrait Customwashington post logoWashington Post, The Obamas’ portraits are not what you’d expect and that’s why they’re great, Philip Kennicott​ (Washington Post Art Critic), Feb. 12, 2018. Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, chosen by the former president and first lady, have combined traditional representation with elements that underscore the complexity of their subjects, and the historic fact of their political rise. And both painters have managed to create compelling likenesses without sacrificing key aspects of their signature styles.

michele obama portrait 2 12 2018

Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration wants to sell off airports and other assets around the U.S., Michael Laris, Feb. 12, 2018. The $200 billion infrastructure initiative aims to prompt state and local governments and private industry to spend more on projects without making major new federal investments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Freewheeling immigration debate in Senate will test power of conservative outside group, James Hohmann, Feb. 12, 2018. Senators are expected to open their debate on immigration tonight. But even the savviest Washington insiders are unsure about how it will play out — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, White House proposes tearing down J. Edgar Hoover Building but keeping FBI headquarters downtown, Jonathan O’Connell, Feb. 12, 2018. It was an abrupt shift after more than a decade of various administrations pushing to move the campus into the suburbs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to eliminate federal funding for popular D.C. tuition aid program, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Feb. 12, 2018. The D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant has helped 26,000 D.C. students attend and graduate from college.

2018 U.S. Politics

washington post logohillary clinton twitterWashington Post, Hillary Clinton, a favorite GOP foil, plans discreet 2018 strategy, Robert Costa, Feb. 12, 2018. Clinton’s emerging strategy is to leverage the star power she retains in some Democratic circles while remaining sufficiently below the radar to avoid becoming a useful target for Republicans .She is shown in her Twitter photo at right.

More On Trump Reaction To Aide’s Wife-Beating Scandal

jennie willoughby nbc today tease

Jennifer Willoughby, shown above right, in an NBC News interview

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Trump has chosen the wrong women to demean, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Feb. 12, 2018. Jennie Willoughby, an ex-wife of disgraced former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, has had quite enough of Trump’s routine. In response to his Saturday tweet whining that men’s lives are being “shattered” when their abusers step forward (“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false…..There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”), Willoughby writes:

The words “mere allegation” and “falsely accused” meant to imply that I am a liar. That Colbie Holderness is a liar. That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted. . . .

I think the issue here is deeper than whether Trump, or General John Kelly, or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Senator Orrin Hatch, or Hope Hicks, or whether anyone else believes me or defends Rob. Society as a whole has a fear of addressing our worst secrets. (Just ask any African-American citizen). It’s as if we have a societal blind spot that creates an obstacle to understanding. Society as a whole doesn’t acknowledge the reality of abuse.

Trump and his defenders make a grave error in making this a battle between Trump, who a large majority of Americans think is dishonest, and victimized women. His devoted cult may take his side, although judging from my interactions with Republican women loyalists, some are becoming more and more agitated and frustrated that their spinning isn’t working and that they are being placed in the position of defending the indefensible. (Tip: You put yourselves there. Stop doing it.) What Trump is doing is summoning once again an army of women and fighting against a cultural tide, far deeper and wider than a political “issue.”

Threats To U.S. Economy

Wall Street On Parade, Opinion: These Fears Are Overhanging the Stock Market, Pam Martens and Russ Martens: Feb. 12, 2018.  It’s Time to Pull Back the Curtain on the Central Banks. Here’s what is feeding fear in the stock market:

Trump’s presidency is spinning out of control leaving no adults in the room. The much ballyhooed tax cut legislation is actually going to produce frightening budget deficits that push up interest rates to a level that crashes the stock market; the Republican Party that pushed for this fiscally-irresponsible tax cut plan will be responsible for handing the House over to Democrats in the midterms, putting an end to the deregulation perks to corporations that have buoyed this stock market; if the House shifts leadership so will important House Committees like Intelligence and Financial Services, which may decide to start issuing meaningful subpoenas.

And that’s just for starters. A big fear that is much less talked about involves the changing role that global central banks have played in stock and bond markets. The U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, is tapering the amount of U.S. Treasuries it buys as part of its efforts to unwind its massive balance sheet that was amassed as part of its Quantitative Easing (QE) programs that followed the financial crash of 2008.

Media: Trump and Fake History

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Fake news is not enough, now it’s fake history, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 12, 2018 (subscription required). Donald Trump continues to push his full-throttled assault on the free press by claiming any news report that is critical of him or his policies constitutes “fake news.”

JFK Assassination Records Cover-up

jefferson morleyJFKFacts.org, Analysis: Oswald under surveillance: the last JFK secret, Jefferson Morley, Feb. 12, 2018. Author, reporter and JFKFacts.org editor Jefferson Morley is shown at right. While JFK researchers seek to come up with an accurate count of just how many JFK assassination files remain secret in advance of the April 2018 deadline for full disclosure ordered by President Trump, we can be sure the number is more than 1,000 and maybe higher than 3,000. The precise number, however, matters less than what is still secret – and this we JFK Factknow with certainty.

One of the most important stories still under wraps: the story of the CIA’s surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald from 1959 to 1963. A Senate investigator’s memo, released in December, gives the exact date that the surveillance of Oswald began: November 11, 1959. This is one of the most important JFK records released in the past year, so its details are worth understanding.

Feb. 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Appears to Doubt #MeToo Movement in Tweet, Mark Landler, Feb. 11, 2018 (print edition). After the resignations of two aides facing claims of domestic violence, Mr. Trump said that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” President Trump thrust himself into the national debate over sexual misconduct on Saturday, asserting that “a mere allegation” could destroy the lives of those accused, as his own White House was engulfed by charges of abusive behavior.

Mr. Trump, in an early morning Twitter post, appeared to be defending two of his aides who resigned this past week after facing claims of domestic violence.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” he wrote. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

The statement echoed Mr. Trump’s dismissive response to allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse made over decades against male friends, colleagues and, above all, himself.

kellyanne conway fox aug.28 2016HuffPost, Conway Defends Trump Response To Abuse Allegations Against Ex-Aide, Kate Sheppard, Feb. 11, 2018. The president, she says, believes “you have to consider all sides.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (shown in a file screenshot) said she has “no reason not to believe the women” who accused staff secretary Rob Porter of domestic violence ― but then defended President Donald Trump, who has suggested that the allegations might not be true.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked Conway about a tweet from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) arguing that congressional hearings should be held for the women who have accused Trump of assault or abuse.

“Those accusers have had their day on your network and elsewhere for a long time,” Conway said. “I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand.”

Crime, Cops, Courts Around the Nation

baltimore police arrested via abcwashington post logoWashington Post, Baltimore detectives convicted in corruption trial that revealed shocking crimes, Rachel Weiner, Feb. 9, 2018.  A federal jury found Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor guilty of fraud, robbery and racketeering in a scheme that netted officers in an elite police unit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, drugs and guns. Six of the pair’s colleagues (all shown above in an ABC News photo) already had pleaded guilty.

Olympic Diplomacy

Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea's Kim Yo Jong (center) and the vice president's wife, Kathy Pence (Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong (center) and the vice president’s wife, Kathy Pence (Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

ny times logoNew York Times, Kim Jong-un’s Sister Steals Mike Pence’s Thunder, Motoko Rich and Choe Sang-Hun, Feb. 11, 2018. When the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, decided to send a large delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea this month, the world feared he might steal the show.

olympics logo 2018 winterIf that was indeed his intention, he could not have chosen a better emissary than the one he sent: his only sister, Kim Yo-jong, whom news outlets in the South instantly dubbed “North Korea’s Ivanka,” likening her influence to that of Ivanka Trump on her father, President Trump.

Much as Ms. Trump has been when traveling with her father, Ms. Kim was closely followed by the news media during her three-day visit to Seoul and to Pyeongchang, which is hosting the Olympics. She flew back to North Korea on Sunday night.,

mike pence o SmallFlashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Ms. Kim managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making.

While Mr. Pence came with an old message — that the United States would continue to ratchet up “maximum sanctions” until the North dismantled its nuclear arsenal — Ms. Kim delivered messages of reconciliation as well as an unexpected invitation from her brother to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

Feb. 10

Olympic Diplomacy

mike pence karen pence olympics

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, seated at left, refuse to stand in a South Korean VIP box as a unified South and North Korean Olympic team enters the stadium. Immediately behind them, dressed in black, was Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pence finds a new way to humiliate himself at the Olympics, Bill Palmer, Feb. 10, 2018. Remember when Vice President Michael Pence attended an NFL football game just so he could leave immediately after the National Anthem, in protest of the players who were taking a knee to protest racism?

That’s right, Pence is the first public figure to stage a public protest in favor of racism. But even though this guy clearly doesn’t believe in the First Amendment, or equality, or the American way of life, he did see fit to stage a protest of his own during the Olympics.

Pence snubbed the North Korean delegation during the opening ceremonies, presumably because he thought that creating an international incident would please his racist warmongering base and please Trump.

The Olympics have always been about bringing the nations of the world together for a friendly competition, even when they can’t get along with each other through any other method. It’s an opportunity to further dialogue, diplomacy, and peace. Mike Pence had no right to do what he did. He apparently didn’t realize how poorly it would play, because he’s already backtracking) by claiming that the snub somehow happened by accident. He’d rather have us think he’s just that incompetent.

ny times logomoon jae in 2017 10 01New York Times, Kim Jong-un Invites South Korean Leader to North for Meeting, Choe Sang-Hun, Feb. 10, 2018 (print edition). After North Korea’s leader relayed the proposal through his sister, who was in the South for the Olympics, President Moon Jae-in (shown in a 2017 file photo) said the Koreas should “create the environment to make it happen.”

North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-un, extended an extremely rare invitation to a foreign head of state on Saturday, using the diplomatic opening created by the Olympics in South Korea to ask its leader, President Moon Jae-in, to visit the North for a summit meeting.

Mr. Kim’s unusual invitation, which was received by Mr. Moon with both caution and optimism, was the latest sign of warming relations between the two rival governments after an exceptionally tense period over the North’s nuclear weapons program.

north korea flagBut the overture by the North also risked driving a wedge between South Korea and the United States, its main military ally, which has been campaigning for “maximum sanctions and pressure” against North Korea.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was visiting South Korea for the Olympics, has used increasingly hostile language against the North in recent days, calling it the most tyrannical regime on the planet and steadfastly avoiding interactions with North Korean delegates at the Games.

North Korean Cheerleaders

olympics logo 2018 winterABC News, North Korea’s 200-plus cheerleaders steal spotlight at 2018 Winter Olympics with matching outfits, synchronized chants, Morgan Winsor, Feb. 10, 2018. Clad in coordinated outfits of red with white and blue accents, North Korea’s throng of more than 200 cheerleaders are stealing the spotlight at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in South Korea as they chant, sway and dance in unison.

U.S. Politics

djt rob porter ex 2 10 18 Custom

On Feb. 10, 2018, the New York Daily News published a cover story showing Colbie Holderness, a beaten wife of future Trump Staff Secretary Rob Porter

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Squirms as Trump Veers Off Script With Abuse Remarks, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Feb. 10, 2018. Tax cuts and economic growth appear to be improving the party’s political position, but President Trump can’t stop antagonizing voters, especially women. He appeared to ignore victims of sexual abuse and express doubts about the #MeToo movement, saying, “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”

djt official portraitSaturday was a case in point. In a Twitter post, Mr. Trump appeared to raise doubts about the entire #MeToo movement, a day after he had offered sympathy for a former aide accused of spousal abuse.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” the president wrote on Twitter, adding: “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

On Friday, the president had jumped into the controversy over the former aide, Rob Porter, who is accused by two former wives of physical and emotional abuse, defending him and offering no denunciation even for the idea of assaulting women. Mr. Trump, who himself has been accused of exual misconduct, focused instead on Mr. Porter, saying that he was enduring a “tough time.”

The president’s seeming indifference to claims of abuse infuriated Republicans, who were already confronting a surge of activism from Democratic women driven to protest, raise money and run for office because of their fervent opposition to Mr. Trump.

Siegelman Undergoes Emergency Bypass

don siegelman wAl.com, Former Governor Don Siegelman recovering from heart bypass surgery, Jared Boyd, Feb. 10, 2018. Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is recovering from an emergency heart bypass surgery, a spokeswoman confirmed via e-mail Saturday afternoon. “Don is sitting in a chair, talking (and) looking great! You would never know the docs had his heart out yesterday. Amazing!” the former governor’s brother Les Siegelman wrote on a Facebook fan page dedicated to Siegelman’s causes.

The post details Siegelman’s recent health, stating that he was prompted by doctor’s to get the emergency surgery, following a routine physical and “subsequent procedures.” “He required four by-passes to fix 90% blockage in the ‘Widow Maker’,” Les Siegelman wrote, “Doctors said he could have died in his sleep. They anticipate a rapid and full recovery.”

According to Les Siegelman, his brother is in recovery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham. In an e-mail correspondence via the e-mail address associated with Siegelman’s official website, the former governor’s administrative assistant reported Siegelman is on track to be released from hospital care on Wednesday.

“Yes, he will be released unless there is a snafu which we don’t want. He cannot be interviewed as he will be in violation of his home confinement,” the administrative assistant wrote. “Anyone who goes to visit must be cleared by the (Federal Bureau of Prisons).”

JIP Editor’s Note: Siegelman was framed with his co-defendant Richard Scrushy on corruption charges that broke the back of the Democratic Party in his state according to extensive investigative reporting by the Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers. The continued courtroom injustices thus retain news value, particularly in light of widespread failures to prosecute and other government figures accused of vastly more and with vastly more evidence than involved in this case.

More #MeToo Abuses

tim nolan mugNew York Daily News, Trump-backing former judge pleads guilty to human trafficking charges, Jessica Schladebeck, Feb. 10, 2018 (print edition). A Trump-supporting Kentucky man who previously served as a district judge pleaded guilty to a slew of crimes on Friday, including human trafficking.

Tim Nolan (shown in his mug shot), the self-proclaimed chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Campbell County, could face up to 20 years behind bars for felony charges that also include promoting human trafficking of minors and unlawful transaction with minors, according to a press release from the Kentucky attorney general’s office.

The 70-year-old former judge was arrested in April and was later indicted on 28 felony counts and a pair of misdemeanor charges. As part of a plea agreement, Nolan pleaded guilty to 21 of those charges, which involved 19 victims. He’s also required to pay a $110,000 fine — the bulk of which will be donated to the Human Trafficking Victims fund established by state Lawmakers in 2013.

Nolan’s indictment rattled his small Kentucky community, where he worked as a district judge until 1985. He was well-known in Campbell County as an outspoken member of the Tea Party and enthusiastic Trump backer.

Global News: Israel-Syria Engaged In Attacks

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel carries out ‘large-scale attack’ in Syria after Israeli jet crashes under antiaircraft fire, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, Feb. 10, 2018. Israel says it launched a “large-scale” aerial attack inside Syria on Saturday after one of its jets was downed under Syrian antiaircraft fire, in a series of cross-border incidents that threatened to destabilize the volatile region between the two countries.

israel flagIsrael says the situation started with an Iranian drone crossing into its territory from Syria at around 4:30 a.m. It was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahran Qasemi, however, described the Israeli claim as “ridiculous.”

Israel later dispatched eight fighter jets to bomb the T4 military base near the Syrian city of Palmyra, from where it says the drone was dispatched and controlled. Syria responded with “substantial Syrian antiaircraft fire” under which two Israeli pilots ejected from their F-16, which crashed inside Israel, according to the Israeli military. One of the pilots was severely injured, it said. The Syrian state news agency said more than one plane was hit, describing the bombing of the base as a “new Israeli aggression.”

A military alliance backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that any other incursion by Israel would be met with “serious and fierce” retaliation.

russian flagRussia, which has troops based at T4 military base, reacted with anger. “The creation of any threat to the lives and safety of Russian military servicemen currently in Syria on the invitation of its lawful government to help fight terrorists is absolutely unacceptable,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. In an attempt to contain Iran and its proxies, Israel has regularly carried out airstrikes inside Syria, though it has in the past refrained from acknowledging its responsibility for specific bombings. Syria’s response in the past has been limited, but it appeared to be sending a message on Saturday that it would not remain that way.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria — Is War With Israel Imminent? b, Feb. 10, 2018. Around 6 am GMT the Syrian air defense shot downed an Israeli fighter jet that was attacking the country. There is now the chance that a larger war will ensue. Should Israel escalate to a bigger war it will be covered with hundreds of missiles per hour. Hizbullah has enough reserves to submit Israel to weeks of uninterrupted fire. Normal civil life will come to a standstill. Lebanon and Syria would also be under severe attacks but they are better positioned to endure such a situation.

A downed F-16 is already a bloody nose for Israel. It is not in its interest to further escalate.

Russia as well as the U.S. could become involved and into direct conflict. This must be avoided at all cost.

The parties are now deescalating. In the last round Israel claimed to have hit several Syrian air-defense positions and “Hizbullah depots” while Syria claimed to have shot down more incoming missiles. Israel signaled that it is not interested in further escalation and Russia called for both sides to calm down.

Propaganda Against American Public

paul craig roberts head sternOpEdNews, Opinion: American Think Tanks Are Hired Purveyors of Fake News, Paul Craig Roberts (right), Feb. 10, 2018. A couple of decades or more ago when I was still in Washington, otherwise known as the snake pit, I was contacted by a well-financed group that offered me, a Business Week and Scripps Howard News Service columnist with access as a former editor also to the Wall Street Journal, substantial payments to promote agendas that the lobbyists paying the bills wanted promoted.

russian flagTo the detriment of my net worth, but to the preservation of my reputation, I declined.  Having read Bryan MacDonald’s article on Information Clearing House, “Anti-Russia Think Tanks in US: Who Funds them?“…  I see that think tanks are essentially lobby groups for their donors. The policy analyses and reform schemes that they produce are tailored to support the material interests of donors. None of the studies are reliable as objective evidence. They are special pleading.

Think tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, and the Atlantic Council, speak for those who fund them. Increasingly, they speak for the military/security complex, The “experts” are mouthpieces funded by the US military security complex. US government agencies use taxpayer dollars to deceive taxpayers. In other words, insouciant Americans pay taxes in order to be brainwashed. And they tolerate this.

Media Propaganda

sinclair broadcast logo custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Sinclair Broadcast Group solicits its news directors for its political fundraising efforts, Paul Farhi, Feb. 10, 2018. The nation’s largest TV station owner is gearing up to fight for deregulation, and it wants some of its own newsroom managers to join the effort.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is asking its executives — including the news directors at its many stations — to contribute to its political action committee, a move that journalism ethics experts say is highly unusual and troubling.

“Please take the time to evaluate the importance that the Sinclair PAC can have towards benefiting our company and the needs of the industry as a whole,” reads an employee solicitation letter from David Amy, the vice chairman of Sinclair and chairman of its political-action committee.

Sinclair, based in the Baltimore suburb of Hunt Valley, is already the largest station owner in the country, with 173 outlets. It is poised to become even larger with its pending $3.9 billion purchase of Chicago-based Tribune Media, which owns or operates 42 stations in such cities as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Global News: U.S. v. Russian Spycraft

nsa hq

The headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Spies, Seeking to Retrieve Cyberweapons, Paid Russian Peddling Trump Secrets, Matthew Rosenberg, Feb. 10, 2018 (print edition). After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials.

nsa official logoThe cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing.

Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. Instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.

The United States intelligence officials said they cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian operation to create discord inside the American government. They were also fearful of political fallout in Washington if they were seen to be buying scurrilous information on the president.

Global News: Syria

syria idlib jan 1 2018 CustomSouthFront, Map Comparison: Development Of Military Situation In Idlib Proivince Since Start Of 2018, Staff report, Feb. 10, 2018. These maps provide a look at the development of the military situation in the province of Idlib and the nearby areas since the start of 2018.

The Syrian Arab Army and other pro-government groups, backed by Russia and Iran, have cleared a large chunk of the territory in northeastern Hama, southern Aleppo and eastern Idlib from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), shown in green, with a patch of ISIS territory at lower right in dark brown).

syria idlib feb 9 2018 CustomEditor’s note:.A map on the right as of Feb.9, also via SouthFront, shows how Syria’s government (whose territory is in light red) has massively reduced al-Qaeda territory and eliminated the last ISIS pocket in the northern and central parts of the country.

Al-Masdar News (AMN), Breaking: Syrian forces down Israeli fighter jet near occupied Golan Heights, Leith Aboufadel, Feb. 10, 2018. At approximately 6:30 A.M. this morning, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down while flying over the western countryside of Damascus. According to preliminary reports from Damascus, the F-16’s pilots were able to eject from their planes after it was struck by an anti-aircraft missile.

The two pilots are safe and landed in Israeli territory. Israeli media claims the F-16 was downed by an Iranian drone that was flying along the Israeli-Syrian border; however, pro-government media claims the aircraft was downed by the Syrian Air Defense. The downing of this Israeli F-16 marks the first time during this war that an Israeli warplane has been shot down.

Child Rape, Molestation, Porn and National Security

larry nassar croppedSunday Guardian (Sri Lanka), Larry Nassar and The Unbelievable National Security Problem, Lori Handrahan, Feb. 10, 2018. The foreign policy and national security community must address the issue of child trafficking committed by government employees. The startling number of government employees arrested on child pornography charges renders this an urgent national security issue. One that demands everyone’s immediate attention.

Dr. Lori Handrahan has worked on gender discrimination and sexual exploitation as a university professor and humanitarian for over twenty years. Her most recent book is “Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape.”

TV Entertainment

New York Daily News, Omarosa Manigault sent to hospital on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ Nicole Bitette, Feb. 10, 2018. Omarosa Manigault is out of the “Celebrity Big Brother” house — for now — after being hospitalized for an injury. The former White House staffer was competing in a game Friday where the cast needed to get dizzy and then bowl when the show’s live feed went down, according to TMZ. When the feeds were back up and running, Manigault, 44, was nowhere to be found and fellow cast members Marissa Jaret Winokur and Ross Matthews were discussing her hospitalization.

Posturing At Olympics

mike pence o SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pence finds a new way to humiliate himself at the Olympics, Bill Palmer, Feb. 10, 2018. True to form, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence promptly found a new way to humiliate himself.

Remember when Pence attended an NFL football game just so he could leave immediately after the National Anthem, in protest of the players who were taking a knee to protest racism? That’s right, Pence is the first public figure to stage a public protest in favor of racism.

But even though this guy clearly doesn’t believe in the First Amendment, or equality, or the American way of life, he did see fit to stage a protest of his own during the Olympics. Pence snubbed the North Korean delegation during the opening ceremonies, presumably because he thought that creating an international incident would please his racist warmongering base and please Trump.

olympics logo 2018 winterThe Olympics have always been about bringing the nations of the world together for a friendly competition, even when they can’t get along with each other through any other method. It’s an opportunity to further dialogue, diplomacy, and peace. Mike Pence had no right to do what he did. He apparently didn’t realize how poorly it would play, because he’s already backtracking) by claiming that the snub somehow happened by accident. He’d rather have us think he’s just that incompetent.

‘Woodstein’ Compare Watergate To Trump Probes

cnn logoCNN and Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein Analysis: Trump’s Russia response ‘eerily similar’ to Nixon’s leading up to Saturday Night Massacre, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Feb. 10, 2018 (video). We’re here again. A powerful and determined President is squaring off against an independent investigator operating inside the Justice Department.

robert mueller waving armSpecial counsel Robert Mueller’s mission is a comprehensive look at Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and any other crimes he uncovers in the process.

richard nixon leaves wh 1974 1President Donald Trump insists it’s all a “witch hunt” and an unfair examination of his family’s personal finances. He constantly complains about the investigation in private and reportedly asked his White House counsel to have Mueller fired. No wonder many people are making comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned.

We covered that eerily similar confrontation for The Washington Post 45 years ago. Nixon didn’t know it at the time, but the Saturday Night Massacre would become a pivot point in his presidency — crucial to the charge that he’d obstructed justice. For him, the consequences were terminal. A retelling of the episode, adapted from “The Final Days,” as we called our book on the president’s last year, can illuminate the stakes.

Bob Woodward is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for his coverage of the Watergate scandal and the 9/11 attacks and a co-author of “All The President’s Men” and “The Final Days.” He’s also an associate editor at The Washington Post.
Carl Bernstein, too, won the Pulitzer with Woodward for his coverage of the Watergate scandal and is a co-author of “All The President’s Men” and “The Final Days.” He’s also a CNN contributor.

Feb. 9

Budget Deal

ny times logornc logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Embraces Deficit Spending It Once Loathed, Alan Rappeport, Feb. 9, 2018. After years of professing fiscal discipline, Republicans are embracing budget deficits as the nation’s debt swells.

Roll Call, Which House Members Voted Against Their Leadership on the Budget Deal, Lindsey McPherson, Feb. 9, 2018. Both Democrats and Republicans bucked their party’s leaders,

washington post logodjt official portraitWashington Post, Brief shutdown ends as Trump signs spending bill, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner, Feb. 9, 2018. Congress moved to end a five-hour government shutdown early Friday morning after the House voted to support a massive bipartisan budget deal that stands to add hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending on the military, domestic programs and disaster relief.

The 240-to-186 House vote gaveled to a close just after 5:30 a.m., nearly four hours after the Senate cleared the legislation on a vote of 71 to 28, with wide bipartisan support.

rand paul hs oBut action did not come soon enough to avoid a brief government shutdown — the second in three weeks — thanks to a one-man protest from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (right), who delayed the Senate vote past midnight to mark his opposition to an estimated $320 billion addition to the federal budget deficit.

President Trump tweeted that he signed the bill, officially ending the second shutdown of his presidency.

Inside the White House

ny times logojohn kelly o dhsNew York Times, Kelly Is Now Center of the Storm He Was Hired to Tame, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 9, 2018. President Trump is calling the chief of staff he pushed out, Reince Priebus, to complain about John Kelly (shown at right), the chief of staff who took Mr. Priebus’s place.

See also, washington post logoWashington Post, Kelly offers account of Porter exit that some White House aides consider untrue, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 9, 2018. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Friday morning instructed senior staff to communicate a version of events about the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter that contradicts the Trump administration’s previous accounts, according to two senior officials.

rob porter fileDuring a staff meeting, Kelly told those in attendance to say he took action to remove Porter (shown in a file photo) within 40 minutes of learning abuse allegations from two ex-wives were credible, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions in such meetings are supposed to be confidential.

“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one of the officials said, adding that people after the meeting expressed disbelief with one another and felt his latest account was not true.

That version of events contradicts both the public record and accounts from numerous other White House officials in recent days as the Porter drama unfolded. Kelly — who first learned of the domestic violence allegations against Porter months ago — issued a glowing statement of support for Porter’s personal character after the allegations first surfaced publicly Tuesday and privately urged him to remain on the job until the next day when his resignation was announced.

Mueller Investigation of Trump: Democrats Memo Debunking Trump Claims

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance, Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky​, Feb. 9, 2018. The president has directed the Justice Department to work with House lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

The decision stands in contrast to one Trump made last week on a Republican memo alleging the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. After the House Intelligence Committee voted on a Monday to make that document public, Trump authorized its release swiftly on a Friday afternoon.

Justice Department Resignation

washington post logorachel brand oWashington Post, Justice Department’s No. 3 official plans to step down, Sari Horwitz and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 9, 2018. Rachel Brand will take a private-sector job after nine months as associate attorney general, said a person familiar with the decision. She would have been in line to take over supervision of the Russia investigation if Rod J. Rosenstein was

White House Chaos.Turnover

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Very turbulent’: Trump and White House consumed with turmoil amid abuse allegations, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 9, 2018. In a conversation with the president, John F. Kelly said he would be willing to resign as chief of staff if that would improve the situation. But he made the offer casually and did not submit a letter of resignation or take formal action, according to two White House officials.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump still can’t get away with firing Rod Rosenstein, Bill Palmer, Feb. 9, 2018. Trump was betting that the Devin Nunes memo would create public outrage about the behavior of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which would in turn give Trump the political cover to get away with firing Rosenstein, thus taking out a key player in the Trump-Russia investigation. But by all accounts that memo failed. It didn’t change a single mind when it comes to Rosenstein. The memo put Trump zero percent of the way toward being able to fire Rosenstein.

rod rosenstein cspan Yet many out there, including many fatalists within the Resistance, are certain that Trump is going to somehow use the memo to fire Rosenstein (shown in a file photo), even though the memo completely failed in its goal of giving him the cover to fire Rosenstein, and that Trump is somehow going to magically get away with that firing, even though he has absolutely no cover for pulling it off. Nothing works that way.

Donald Trump simply does not have the political cover to fire him and get away with it. Because of that, if he does fire him, there will be blowback which will make things even worse for Trump. Even Trump, despite being a delusional lunatic, seems to understand this. He knows he’s stuck with Mueller because he fired Comey when he couldn’t get away with it, and it’s probably why he hasn’t fired anyone else since.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, As Kushner’s security clearance is delayed, White House hesitates to act on others with possible problems, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 9, 2018. White House Counsel Donald McGahn and other Trump administration officials have been so vexed by Jared Kushner’s months-long inability to obtain a permanent security clearance that they have hesitated to get involved in other cases with potential problems, several people familiar with the matter said.

Dozens of White House employees, including Kushner (shown above right), are still waiting for permanent clearances and have been operating for months on a temporary status that allows them to handle sensitive information while the FBI probes their backgrounds, U.S. officials have said. Two U.S. officials said they do not expect Kushner to receive a permanent security clearance in the near future.

It is not uncommon for ­security-clearance investigations to drag on for months, but Kushner’s unique situation has cast a pall over the process in the minds of some, these people said.

The president’s son-in-law and close adviser has been allowed to see materials, including the President’s Daily Brief, that are among the most sensitive in government. He has been afforded that privilege even though he has only an interim clearance and is a focus in the ongoing special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

Another White House Wife Beater?

david sorensen

washington post logoWashington Post, Second White House official departs amid abuse allegations, which he denies, Elise Viebeck​, Feb. 9, 2018. The abrupt departure of speechwriter David Sorensen (shown above at the White House) comes after his former wife claimed that he was violent and emotionally abusive during their turbulent two-and-a-half-year marriage — allegations that he vehemently denied.

A White House speechwriter resigned Friday after his former wife claimed that he was violent and emotionally abusive during their turbulent 2½ -year marriage — allegations that he vehemently denied, saying she was the one who victimized him.

The abrupt departure of David Sorensen, a speechwriter who worked under senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, came as The Washington Post was reporting on a story about abuse claims by his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett. Corbett told The Post that she described his behavior to the FBI last fall as the bureau was conducting a background check of Sorensen.

White House officials said they learned of the accusations by Sorensen’s wife Thursday night, before The Post contacted the White House for comment.

Corbett first contacted The Post a week before Porter’s case became public. She said that during her marriage to Sorensen, he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall and grasped her menacingly by her hair while they were alone on their boat in remote waters off Maine’s coast, an incident she said left her fearing for her life. During part of their marriage, he was a top policy adviser to Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

She said she did not report her abuse allegations to police because of Sorensen’s connections to law enforcement officials.

Corbett said several of the incidents involved alcohol and acknowledged that she slapped Sorensen a number of times after he called her a vulgar term.

Powerful Wifely Statement

jennie willoughby nbc today tease

nbc news logoNBC Today, Rob Porter’s ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby: He was ‘verbally and emotionally abusive,’ Staff report, Feb. 9, 2018. (6:18 min. video). Joining TODAY live, Jennifer Willoughby (shown above at right), an ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, describes him pulling her out of the shower during an argument as well as “attacks on my character and intelligence.” She says that “of course” she believes the allegations of physical abuse by Porter made by his first wife, Colbie Holderness, and says there was no coordination between her and Holderness.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Praises Top Adviser Accused of Abusing Ex-Wives, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 9, 2018. “We wish him well,” President Trump said, as a nearly all-male top White House staff appears to have looked the other way about allegations against the disgraced adviser, Rob Porter.

rob porter filePresident Trump on Friday praised Rob Porter (shown in a file photo), the White House staff secretary who resigned on Wednesday amid spousal abuse allegations, saying it was a “tough time” for the disgraced former aide and noting that Mr. Porter had denied the accusations.

“We wish him well,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Porter, who was accused of physical and emotional abuse by two ex-wives. The president added, “As you probably know, he says he is innocent.”

“He worked very hard,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. He said he had only “recently” learned of the allegations against Mr. Porter and was surprised.

“He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and he will have a great career ahead of him,” Mr. Trump said. “But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.”

The glowing praise of a staff member accused of serial violence against women was in line with the president’s own denials of sexual impropriety despite accusations from more than a dozen women and his habit of accepting claims of innocence from men facing similar allegations. Among them was Roy Moore, the former Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, who is accused of molesting teenage girls.Continue reading the main story

Mr. Trump’s comments came as a new timeline emerged indicating that top officials knew much earlier than previously disclosed that Mr. Porter faced accusations of violence against women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Breaking with tradition, Trump skips president’s written intelligence report and relies on oral briefings, Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris and Greg Jaffe, Feb. 9, 2018. For much of the past year, President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.

cia logoTrump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings. Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The arrangement underscores Trump’s impatience with exhaustive classified documents that go to the commander in chief — material that he has said he prefers condensed as much as possible. But by not reading the daily briefing, the president could hamper his ability to respond to crises in the most effective manner, intelligence experts warned.

Another Political Sex Scandal

jon stanard

Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Rep. Jon Stanard, accused of meeting call girl for sex, used public money for hotel rooms, Lee Davidson and Taylor W. Anderson, Feb. 9, 2018. A British newspaper reported Thursday that Rep. Jon Stanard (shown at right), R-St. George, resigned abruptly Tuesday after he met a Salt Lake City call girl twice for sex, and it released racy texts that it says he sent to her.

The Daily Mail of London said call girl Brie Taylor alleges Stanard paid her for sex during two business trips to Salt Lake City in 2017. Taylor asserts he paid her $250 for each of the one-hour sessions in June and August — on dates when the Legislature held interim meetings.

Stanard is married and voted for stricter laws against pornography. He also said on his website — which has since been deleted — “I am a strong advocate for conservative family
values. I am pro life, as well as for traditional marriage.”

Taylor alleges Stanard first approached her March 7, 2017 — near the end of last year’s general session of the Legislature. He allegedly wrote: “Looking at your website. Can you meet?”

Kaine Demands Basis For Trump-Ordered Bombing In Syria

tim kaine wMSNBC “Morning Joe,” Senator Tim Kaine Demands Release Of Secret President Trump War Powers Memo, Joe Scarborough, Heidi Przybyla, Bret Stephens and John Heileman, Feb. 9, 2018 (6:54 min. video.). Senator Tim Kaine (right) sent a letter to Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, demanding the release of a seven-page memo that outlines Trump’s interpretation of his authority to wage war.

As a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, the Virginia Democrat Kaine has been at the forefront of the fight to get Trump to discuss his rationale for the bombing of Syria last April, a move which has Kaine and others worried that it compromised the congressional oversight of military actions and campaigns.

After the 2017 bombing, Trump was called upon by several Congress members to release his justification for the action under U.S. and International law. In the letter to Tillerson, Kaine said, “The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable.”

Stock Market Impact

ny times logoNew York Times, We All Have Stake in Stock Market, Right? Guess Again, Patricia Cohen, Feb. 9, 2018 (print edition). Wall Street’s up and downs have little impact on the income or wealth of most Americans, despite the bromides of politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Media: Ethics Debate Over Using Free Photos

Poynter Institute, Opinion: Article about free images ‘contradicts everything I hold true about journalism,’ Mark E. Johnson, February 9, 2018. In my two careers — as a journalist and as a journalism educator — I have worked to raise the level of visual reporting, to raise the awareness of how visuals advance our understanding of our communities and to raise the level of communication within newsrooms on how to incorporate visual reporting into the planning process.

With one post, two people who I have worked closely with attempted to raze everything I have done over the last quarter century. Their story, titled, “These tools will help you find the right images for your stories,” contradicts everything I hold true about journalism — textual and visual.

The premise of the piece is that in a rushed atmosphere, visuals are forgotten about and sought as a last step. That’s paired with the acknowledgment that visuals increase engagement on all platforms. To sum, we don’t think about visuals BUT visuals are critically important. The solutions offered amount to scouring the web for royalty-free and (hopefully) copyright-released stock images.

Choosing stock images for news stories is an ethically questionable choice — you don’t know the provenance of the image, you don’t know the conditions under which it was created and you don’t know where else it has been used. It degrades the journalistic integrity of the site.

Feb. 8

Korean Olympics

mike pence o Smalltime logo ogTime, Vice President Mike Pence Sat Very Close to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un’s Sister During the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, Staff report, Feb. 8, 2018. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sat very close to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister during Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, amid heightened tensions between their two nations.

north korea flagPence and his wife were seated in the row directly in front of Kim Yo Jong, who made history with her visit to PyeongChang for the Olympic games. Pence and Kim Yo Jong were photographed together, looking on as the opening ceremony commenced.

olympics logo 2018 winterPence, who wore a coat bearing the colors of the American flag, is representing the United States during the Olympics. Kim Jong-un’s sister is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a luncheon during the Winter Olympics, according to the Associated Press.

BBC, Winter Olympics 2018: Pence skips dinner with N Koreans, Staff report, Feb. 8, 2018. US Vice-President Mike Pence has skipped a dinner at which he was due to share a table with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam. Mr Pence briefly encountered Mr Kim but they tried to avoid directly facing each other, Yonhap news agency reports.

korean peninsula google mapsLater South Korean President Moon Jae-in shook hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony. The Games are taking place amid tension over North Korea’s nuclear programme. Mr Yong-nam did briefly meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the dinner. According to a UN spokesperson, Mr Guterres reiterated a hope for “peaceful denuclearisation” on the peninsula.

Global News: Korea

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Why the Korea Crisis Matters, Jacob G. Hornberger (shown at right), Feb. 9, 2018. To the deep consternation of President Trump, Vice-President Pence, the U.S. national-security establishment, and their acolytes and critics in the U.S. mainstream press, North Korea continues to drive a wedge between the U.S. government and the South Korean government. The best thing that could ever happen to the people of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States is if the wedge gets so large that South Korea gives the boot to all U.S. troops in South Korea, sending them packing back home, where they belong.

Here is how the wedge is working:

First, the two Koreas agreed that North Korea would participate in the Winter Olympics being held in South Korea. That agreement was entered into without the permission of U.S. officials.

Second, the two Koreas agreed to march together in the opening session of the Olympics and to compete together in at least one sports event. That agreement was entered into without the permission of U.S. officials.

Third, high North Korean and South Korean officials have agreed to get together for lunch during the Olympics. That agreement was entered into without the permission of U.S. officials.

north korea flagIn fact, while Vice-President Pence, who is traveling to the Olympics, has expressed ambivalence on meeting with North Korean officials, there is little doubt that he would love to be invited to that luncheon. But North Korea and South Korea would be wise to not invite him, as his participation would undoubtedly be filled with the usual U.S. threats and bluster about sanctions, military options, big nuclear buttons, and U.S. fire and fury on North Korea, none of which would be constructive.

The question naturally arises: Why are some of us here in the United States spending so much time focusing on the situation in Korea? Here’s an excellent article that best sums up the reason: What War with Korea Would Look Like by Youchi Dreazen.  Every American should read this article.

Staffer’s Wife-Beating Charge Roils Trump White House

Rob Porter’s ex-wife Jennie Willoughby told The Post that the White House aide was abusive during their marriage. (Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

washington post logodon mcgahn cato screengrabWashington Post, Top officials knew of abuse allegations against White House aide for months, Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard​, Feb. 8, 2017. White House Counsel Donald McGahn (shown at right) knew a year ago that Rob Porter’s ex-wives accused him of domestic violence but allowed him to serve as an influential gatekeeper to the president, according to two people familiar with the matter. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly handed him more responsibilities even after learning this fall about the allegations and the related delay in Porter’s security clearance.

hope hicks strategic communications directorPalmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Donald Trump just made an enemy out of Hope Hicks, Bill Palmer, Feb. 8, 2018. Last week, Donald Trump’s former legal spokesman Mark Corallo accused Trump’s current senior adviser Hope Hicks (shown in a file photo) of having promised to destroy evidence of Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with the Russian government during the election. If that sounds complicated, the upshot is that Hicks now has to decide whether to cut a plea deal against Trump to save herself, if she hasn’t already secretly done it.

So Trump and his goons picked the worst time possible to mislead Hicks into making a fool of herself on a very sensitive matter.

This week the media exposed that White House aide Rob Porter had been accused of physical abuse by two ex-wives, and that one of them had a restraining order against him. It was then revealed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly knew all about it, and tried to conceal it instead of getting rid of Porter.

As it turns out, Porter is dating Hope Hicks. Now we’re learning that Trump’s people went to great lengths to trick Hicks into putting out a statement supporting Porter.

washington post logojohn kelly o dhsWashington Post, The White House’s Rob Porter debacle is a sign of incompetence or hubris — or both, Aaron Blake, Feb. 8, 2018 (6:15 min. video). “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him,” White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said in an initial statement Tuesday about allegations that the top White House aide had abused an ex-wife.

By Wednesday afternoon, Porter resigned amid allegations that he had abused another ex-wife, who produced photographs of her black eye. And Kelly was suddenly “shocked.”

“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” Kelly said. But, he added: “I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.”

Kelly was the man brought in to restore order to a White House in chaos. The Porter controversy has displayed once again how rudderless the West Wing remains.

republican elephant logo

The RNC recently has said it would let an investigation play out before returning money raised by its now-resigned former finance chair, Steve Wynn, who faces multiple sexual assault allegations.

U.S. Budget, Immigration, Deficit, Shutdown Battles

washington post logoWashington Post, Sweeping budget deal would add $500 billion in federal spending, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner​, Feb. 8, 2018 (print edition). The Republican-led Congress is set to vote Thursday on a two-year budget deal that would include massive increases in military and domestic spending programs, reflecting an ideological shift for a party whose leaders long preached fiscal conservatism but have now embraced big spending.

If the plan wins passage, it would quell months of squabbling between the parties with another big addition to the federal deficit, ending the need for repeated short-term agreements that led to frequent brinkmanship and a government shutdown.

djt official portraitThe accord would deliver the defense funding boost wanted by President Trump and Republican lawmakers alongside an increase in domestic programs sought by Democrats, as well as tens of billions of dollars for disaster victims.

james mattis oTrump backed the deal Wednesday, saying in a tweet that it would give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “what he needs to keep America Great” and calling on lawmakers of both parties to “support our troops and support this Bill!”

The Senate is expected to vote first on the plan, clearing it Thursday afternoon or evening — giving the House just hours to act before a midnight deadline for a government shutdown.

nancy pelosi oRoll Call, Pelosi To Vote ‘No’ on Budget, But Won’t Whip Caucus, Lindsey McPherson, Feb. 8, 2018. Minority leader generally agrees with bill contents, opposes process, she says. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (shown at right) said Thursday she will vote against the budget deal needed to keep the government open past midnight but that she would not whip her caucus to vote the same way. That is because Pelosi is frustrated that House Republicans have no specific plans to take up an immigration bill protecting so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi gives longest continuous speech in House history in bid to force immigration votes, Ed O’Keefe, David Weigel and Paul Kane, Feb. 8, 2018 (print edition). Nancy Pelosi talked for more than eight hours in a plea for Republicans to take action to protect young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”

Stock Market Plunge

ny times logoNew York Times, Markets Drop Again to Fall 10 Percent Off a Recent High, Tiffany Hsu and Matt Phillips, Feb. 8, 2018. Major stock indexes dropped sharply as the end of trading approached, ending a brief respite from this week’s sell-off. A decline of 20 percent would mark the start of a bear market. After more than nine years of stocks marching higher, a new reality is sinking in among investors: The long, smooth ride is over. And it doesn’t feel good.

Major stock indexes suffered a steep drop in late trading on Thursday, the second straight day that stocks plunged shortly before the markets closed. The 3.75 percent decline pushed the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index down more than 10 percent from its peak in late January. That means the market is technically in correction territory — a term used to indicate that a downward trend is more severe than simply a few days of bearish trading.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Fraudulence of the Fiscal Hawks, Paul Krugman (shown at right), Feb. 8, 2018. Republicans haven’t changed their views on deficits — they never cared about them; they just wanted to hurt Obama.

U.S. Government Shutdown Begins

washington post logoWashington Post, Another federal shutdown looms as budget bill faces hurdles, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis​, Feb. 8, 2017. A government shutdown will begin at midnight. The Senate has recessed until 12:01 a.m. without passing a spending bill. The Senate planned to vote early Friday morning on a spending bill that would pour billions of dollars into the military and domestic programs while keeping the government operating.idnight

U.S. Attack In Syria In Syria Denounced

syria flagSANA (Syrian Arab News Agency), US-led coalition launches aggression against popular forces fighting Daesh and Qasad, casualties reported, Staff report, Feb. 8, 2018. Forces of the US-led “international coalition” have targeted popular forces that were fighting Daesh (ISIS) terrorists and Qasad groups in Deir Ezzor countryside in an attempt to support terrorism.

SANA’s reporter in Deir Ezzor said that forces of the US-led coalition on Wednesday midnight attacked popular forces that were fighting Daesh terrorist organization and Qasad groups between the villages of Khsham and al-Tabyia in Deir Ezzor northeastern countryside, leaving scores of persons killed and others injured.

The reporter added that the US-led coalition targeted the popular forces’ positions with ten strikes causing heavy material damage.

In the same context, Russian Defense Ministry declared that the coalition forces’ aggression showed once again that the real objective of the illegal presence of the US forces in Syria is not actually fighting against Daesh (ISIS) rather it is to seize and take over the economic assets that belong to the Syrian Arab Republic.

syrian map feb 8 2018 CustomSyrian Battle Map as of Feb. 8, 2018, with Syrian forces in red (Map by SouthFront)

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: Syria, U.S. May Have Arranged “Self Defense” Attack On Syrian Government Forces, b, Feb. 8, 2018. Last night the illegal U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria attacked a group of Syrian government aligned troops and their Russian support. The incident happened north-east of Deir Ezzor city on the east side of the Euphrates. The U.S. claims that it killed some 100 Syrian soldiers that were allegedly attacking its proxy forces in an attempt to recover oil fields.

There is a factual separation of areas south-west of the Euphrates under Syrian government control and north-east of the Euphrates under U.S. occupation. But several locations around Manbij, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor contradict that and are under control of the respective other side. The U.S. claims that a “de-confliction line” along the Euphrates is agreed upon. The Syrian government says that no such agreement exists.

An small area across the Euphrates north-east of Deir Ezzor had been taken by Syrian government forces months ago. It is near some oilfields which the U.S. wants to keep away from the Syrian government.

Global News: Korea

Vox, What War with Korea Would Look Like, Yochi Dreazen, Feb. 8, 2018. A full-blown war with North Korea wouldn’t be as bad as you think. It would be much, much worse.

michele flournoyLate last September, I moderated a discussion about North Korea with retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, whose 37-year military career included a stint running NATO, and Michèle Flournoy (shown at right), the No. 3 official at the Pentagon during the Obama administration, who has helped shape US policy toward North Korea since 1993.

north korea flagIt was a chilling conversation. Stavridis said there was at least a 10 percent chance of a nuclear war between the US and North Korea, and a 20 to 30 percent chance of a conventional conflict that could kill a million people or more. Flournoy said President Trump’s tough talk about North Korea — which has included deriding Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” and threatening to rain “fire and fury” down on his country — made it “much more likely now that one side or the other will misread what was intended as a show of commitment or a show of force.”

hr mcmaster cropped may 15 2017 ap The Trump administration, for its part, seems more confident in its ability to manage North Korea with precision. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (shown at right) is pushing something known inside the White House as a “bloody nose” strategy of responding to a North Korean provocation with a set of limited US military strikes. McMaster seems to believe that Kim would passively absorb the attack without hitting back and risking all-out war.

I covered the Iraq War from Baghdad. I saw the aftermath of a conflict built atop sunny scenarios and rosy thinking. I’ve seen the cost of wars that the American people were not prepared for and did not fully understand. The rhetoric around North Korea is raising those same alarm bells for me. For all the talk of nuclear exchanges and giant buttons, there has been little realistic discussion of what a war on the Korean Peninsula might mean, how it could escalate, what commitments would be required, and what sacrifices would be demanded.

So I’ve spent the past month posing those questions to more than a dozen former Pentagon officials, CIA analysts, US military officers, and think tank experts, as well as to a retired South Korean general who spent his entire professional life preparing to fight the North. They’ve all said variants of the same thing: There is a genuine risk of a war on the Korean Peninsula that would involve the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Several estimated that millions — plural — would die.

“This would be nothing like Iraq,” Flournoy told me. “It’s not that the North Korean military is so good. It’s that North Korea has nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction — and is now in a situation where they might have real incentives to use them.”

The experts I spoke to all stressed that Kim could devastate Seoul without even needing to use his weapons of mass destruction. The North Korean military has an enormous number of rocket launchers and artillery pieces within range of Seoul. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates that Kim could hammer the South Korean capital with an astonishing 10,000 rockets per minute — and that such a barrage could kill more than 300,000 South Koreans in the opening days of the conflict. That’s all without using a single nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon.

And retired South Korean Gen. In-Bum Chun, who spent 40 years in uniform thinking about a confrontation with North Korea, underscored that Kim also has a different kind of weapon: 25 million people — including 1.2 million active-duty troops and several million reservists — who have been “indoctrinated since childhood with the belief that Kim and his family are literal gods whose government must be protected at all costs.”

Media Tools, Ethics

Poynter Institute, These tools will help you find the right images for your stories, Kristen Hare and Ren LaForme, Feb. 8, 2018. It’s a hard sell to get anyone to read an article online if that article doesn’t have an image. Most audiences find posts through social or search, both of which have a visual element. Articles without images show up as boring texts blocks that few will see and even fewer will click through.

But what do you do if you don’t have an image? Luckily, there are a variety of image hosting sites with generous licenses that journalists can sort through. No image, no problem.

Poynter Institute Editor’s note: After this article published, we heard from many esteemed journalists who were critical of our approach and the message that we delivered. In the spirit of fostering more dialogue about the use of digital images — particularly free ones — we sought out people whose opinion we respect to write about the issue.

One such person who did was Mark E. Johnson, an educator and visual journalist who has had a longtime relationship with Poynter and who has taught here several times. He wrote a thorough and thoughtful piece that is published on our site: Article about free images ‘contradicts everything I hold true about journalism.

Photo editor Sue Morrow also wrote a piece for us, proposing collaboration and solution-based thinking.

NPPA put out a statement on its website: Visuals have value, and so do visual journalists.

And finally, Poynter president Neil Brown wrote about the issue: We wrote about free photo sites. Many journalists were outraged. Now what?

We invite you to read them all and help us continue the dialogue. — Anne Glover, poynter.org editor

Investigation Of Trump

Palmer Report, Opiinion: The real reason Rick Gates is cutting a deal with Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Feb. 8, 2018. Unless you were paying close attention to the inner workings of the Donald Trump campaign during the election, you may not have even heard of Rick Gates until the day he was arrested alongside Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But now Gates may be the guy who brings the entire criminal operation down. Yesterday we got even more confirmation that Gates is cutting a deal with Robert Mueller. So why is he doing this, and how much damage can he do to Manafort and to Trump?

rick gatesAs for his motivations, Rick Gates (shown at left) doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison. Manafort is wealthy and he’s hired high priced attorneys who plan to try to beat the charges on technicalities and other legal maneuvering. Gates doesn’t have that option. When Gates was first arrested, he had to ask for a public defender because he was broke. Defendants have to provide financial documentation in such cases, so he wasn’t faking it; he really is broke.

Someone (Manafort? Trump? Russia?) has since been providing Gates with high priced attorneys he can’t afford, in the hope of keeping him from flipping. But that wasn’t going to work forever. Gates couldn’t take the risk that such a tenuous situation would work out in his favor. So he brought in a new attorney who has been meeting with Mueller to work out a plea deal.

Trump Military Might Parade Mocked, Opposed

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. council member says Trump’s plans for military parade are all about his ego, Staff report, (1:26 min. video), Feb. 8, 2018 (print edition). D.C. council member Mary Cheh, (D-Ward 3) says that President Trump is trying to mimic totalitarian regimes with his plans to hold a military parade. She also worries about the toll such an event will take on the city’s infrastructure.

north korea military parade 10 October 2015 armoured combat vehicles missiles artillery 026

North Korea military parade on Oct. 10, 2015 with armoured combat vehicles, missiles and goose-stepping marchers

washington post logodwight d. eisenhowerWashington Post, Opinion:Trump’s parade plan isn’t just another distraction, E.J. Dionne Jr., Feb. 8, 2018 (print edition). Dwight D. Eisenhower (shown during his 1961 “Farewell Address” warning against a “military-industrial complex), the last great general to serve as president, urged “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” to mesh the “huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Trump’s parade is the antithesis of Ike’s prudence and his commitment to safeguarding our democracy.

Class Action Pioneer, Fraudster Dies

washington post logoWashington Post, Melvyn I. Weiss, class-action king felled by kickback scheme, dies at 82, Harrison Smith, Feb. 8, 2018 (print edition).  Melvyn I. Weiss, a lawyer who pioneered the use of class-action lawsuits to target corporate malfeasance, won billions of dollars for investors and negotiated a landmark settlement for survivors of the Holocaust, but who later squandered his reputation in a kickback scandal that landed him in prison, died Feb. 2 at his home in Boca Raton, Fla.

Media: On New ‘Reality’ Show, Omarosa Fans Doubts About Trump

omarosa celebrity big brother

The Hill, Omarosa on if US will be OK under Trump: ‘It’s going to not be okay, it’s not,’ Avery Anapol, Feb. 8, 2018. Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman said she was “haunted” by President Trump’s tweets during her time in the White House in a new clip from “Celebrity Big Brother.”

In the teaser, posted by the show’s Twitter account, Manigault-Newman, who also starred in the first season of The Apprentice with Trump, breaks down in tears opening up to fellow cast member Ross Matthews about her White House experiences.

“I was haunted by tweets every day,” she said in the clip. “Like, what is he going to tweet next?”

She added that she tried to “be that person” that would stop the president from tweeting, but said that she was attacked by colleagues when she tried to intervene.

“It was like, ‘keep her away from him, don’t get her access, don’t let her talk to him,’” Manigault-Newman said, tearing up when mentioning Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner by name. “And Ivanka’s there, Jared’s there.”

“It’s not my circus, not my monkeys, I’d like to say not my problem but I can’t say that because it’s bad,” she added.

“Should we be worried?” Matthews asked, to which Manigault-Newman nods. “Don’t say that, because we are worried but I need you to say, ‘no it’s going to be okay.’”

“It’s going to not be okay, it’s not,” Manigault-Newman responded. “It’s so bad.”

Though the season only debuted Wednesday, Manigault-Newman has already mentioned the Trump White House, saying during her cast member introduction on Wednesday that Big Brother is similar to the White House because “there’s a lot of people that want to stab me in the back.” Manigault-Newman resigned from the White House in December.

fox news logo SmallFox News, Omarosa on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’: Trump tweets haunted me, had to ‘serve’ my country, Barnini Chakraborty, Feb. 8, 2018.  Ex-White House staffer and full-time drama queen Omarosa Manigault Newman – back in her reality TV element – tearfully confessed Thursday to being “haunted” by President Trump’s daily tweets, accused his inner circle of keeping her at arm’s length and described her selfless service to the country.

“I felt like it was a call of duty,” she told her “Big Brother: Celebrity Edition” co-star Ross Matthews, in an episode airing Thursday. “I felt like I was serving my country, not serving him.”

DailyMail Online, White House says Omarosa was FIRED and had little access, David Martosko, Feb. 8, 2018. Omarosa Manigault-Newman was fired from her White House job in December, a spokesman for Donald Trump said Thursday, after the former aide trashed the president on ‘Celebrity Big Brother.’

Manigault-Newman (shown above in a still from the CBS show), a former communications director for the administration’s Office of Public Liaison, is making her pivot back to reality television, and she’s doing it by throwing daggers at President Donald Trump and her old West Wing colleagues.

With Trump at the helm, she says, America ‘is going to not be okay. It’s not. It’s so bad.’

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters Thursday that the administration’s reaction to Omarosa’s deep cuts was to them ‘not very seriously.’

Media: Real-Life Parody of Far Right Commentators

Super Deluxe Super Cuts via YouTube, Snowflake Squad,  Alex Jones, Kellyanne Conway, and Donald Trump, Feb. 8, 2018 (video).

Alternative Commentary On “Fake News”

omarosa celebrity big brother cryingThe Anti-Empire Report #155, Opinion: “Fake news” is fake news, William Blum, Feb. 8, 2018. The main problem with the media today, as earlier, is what is left out of articles dealing with controversial issues.

For example, the very common practice during the first Cold War of condemning the Soviet Union for taking over much of Eastern Europe after the Second World War. This takeover is certainly based on fact.

But the condemnation is very much misapplied if no mention is made of the fact that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism once and for all; the Russians in World Wars I and II lost about 40 million people because the West had twice used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down the highway. It was not simply “communist expansion.”

Or the case of Moammar Gaddafi. In the Western media he is invariably referred to as “the Libyan dictator”. Period. And he certainly was a dictator. But he also did many marvelous things for the people of Libya (like the highest standard of living in Africa) and for the continent of Africa (like creating the African Union).

Or the case of Vladimir Putin. The Western media never tires of reminding its audience that Putin was once a KGB lieutenant colonel – wink, wink, we all know what that means, chuckle, chuckle. But do they ever remind us with a wink or chuckle that US President George H.W. Bush was once – not merely a CIA officer, but the fucking Director of the CIA!

Unz Review, Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Rethinking Putin – A Critical Reading, The Saker, Feb. 8, 2018. I have recently had the pleasure of watching a short presentation by Professor Stephen F. Cohen entitled “Rethinking Putin” which he delivered on the annual Nation cruise on Dec.  2, 2017. In his short presentation, Professor Cohen does a superb job explaining what Putin is not. The key thesis is this: Putin began as a pro-Western, European leader and with time he realigned himself with a much more traditional, Russian worldview. He is more in line with Russian voters today.

Professor Cohen concluded by addressing two topics which, I presume, his audience cared deeply about: he said that, contrary to Western propaganda, the so-called ‘anti-gay’ laws in Russia are no different from the laws of 13 US states. Secondly, that “by any reckoning, be it flourishing inside Russia or relations with Israel, by general consent of all, nobody denies this, Jews under Putin in Russia are better off than they had ever been in Russian history. Ever. They have more freedom, less official anti-Semitism, more protection, more official admiration for Israel, more interaction, more freedom to go back and forth”.

Propaganda Against American Public

russian flagInformation Clearing House, Opinion: Anti-Russia Think Tanks in US: Who Funds Them? Bryan MacDonald, Feb. 8, 2018. Countering Russia has become a lucrative industry in Washington. In recent years, the think tank business has exploded. But who funds these organizations, who works for them and what are the real agendas at play?

From the start, let’s be clear, the term “think tank” essentially amounts to a more polite way of saying “lobby group.” Bar a few exceptions, they exist to serve – and promote – the agendas of their funders.

However, particularly in the United States, the field has become increasingly shady and disingenuous, with lobbyists being given faux academic titles like “Senior Non-Resident Fellow” and “Junior Adjunct Fellow” and the like. And this smokescreen usually serves to cloud the real goals of these operations

Global Cheerleading: North Korea

olympics logo 2018 winterNew Yorker, Analysis: The Mesmerizing Spectacle of North Korea’s “Army of Beauties” at the Winter Olympics, Jia Tolentino, Feb 8, 2018. The allure of the North Korean cheerleading squad is connected with the degree to which its members appear to be under complete control.

Cheerleading, by nature, is a form of propaganda — I can say this, I think, having cheered in Texas for six years. But the North Korean cheerleading squad, which will perform at the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies, this Friday, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, occupies its own stratosphere of weaponized comeliness and discipline.

The squad, which has been dubbed, in South Korea, the “army of beauties,” presents a doll-house version of military service: girls in their late teens and early twenties are plucked from the country’s most prestigious universities and charged with making North Korea look good.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 11,000 Americans targeted in India call center tax fraud, Vidhi Doshi, Feb. 8, 2018.  Three men in India were arrested this week after police uncovered a huge scheme that targeted more than 11,000 people in the United States.

Men posing as officials from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service left thousands of voice messages claiming to have found irregularities in the victims’ tax records. The messages instructed them to call back or face legal action. But the phone number they gave connected unsuspecting people in the United States to Indian con men sitting in a second-floor office in an upscale area called Koregaon Park in the western city of Pune.

Indian investigators said they didn’t know how many people in the United States were affected by the scheme or how much money the scammers took. They also said it was unclear how the computer-savvy con men got the victims to transfer money to India but said it probably involved the use of gift cards from Target, iTunes and Walmart.

U.S. Politics / Entertainment

djt bald spot jimmy kimmel feb 8 2018DeadState Staff, Jimmy Kimmel on Trump’s bald spot: Now all the MAGA hats ‘make sense,’  Staff report, Feb. 8, 2018. On Wednesday, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel took aim at a viral video that showed President Trump’s hair wildly blowing in the wind revealing a thinning patch on the back of his head.

“Have you seen the video of President’s Trump’s hair flapping in the wind? If you haven’t you’re in for a bigly treat,” Kimmel said. “Now the red hats make sense,” Kimmel said after playing the video, referring to the “MAGA” hats Trump is often seen wearing. The segment ended with various hair stylists giving their takes on the video.

Feb. 7

U.S. Budget, Shutdown Deal?

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republicans are doing a complete reversal on the deficit, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, Feb. 7, 2018. The debt binge, which is projected to push the annual gap between spending and revenue past $1.1 trillion in 2019, caps off a major shift for the Republican Party, which has been swept up by President Trump’s demands for more spending and tax cuts.

Top White House Staffer Resigns After Wife-Beating Claims: Trump Staff Defends Him

djt rob porter famous mormons Custom

On June 1, White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, 40, assists President Trump with Vice President Pence (r) and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

Daily Mail Online, Hope Hicks’ new boyfriend Rob Porter RESIGNS from White House after BOTH ex-wives accuse him of abuse — including one who told DailyMail.com that he CHOKED and PUNCHED her, Feb. 7, 2018.

Rob Porter has resigned from his role as White House staff secretary after his first ex-wife told DailyMail.com that he choked and punched her during their marriage.

Colbie Holderness, 37, who is a senior analyst for the U.S. government, spoke on the record to DailyMail.com about her five-year marriage to Porter, detailing physical and mental abuse.

She said he broke down her confidence so badly with his verbal and emotional abuse that she took an extended leave of absence from grad school.

Holderness’s revelations follow DailyMail.com’s exclusive interview on Tuesday evening with Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby.

She told how Porter, 40, once dragged her wet and naked out of the shower and was verbally abusive, calling her a f***ing b***h’ on their honeymoon.

white house logoThe White House initially gave Porter its full support. But just hours after the second set of revelations, Porter resigned while still protesting his innocence.

‘These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described,’ Porter said in a statement Wednesday. ‘I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.

‘My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.’

Colbie Holderness married Porter in June 2003 at New College Chapel in Oxford, England where Porter was attending as a Rhodes scholar. Holderness, 37, who is a senior analyst for the U.S. government, spoke on the record to DailyMail.com about her five-year marriage following the on-the-record allegations by Rob Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby.

hope hicks strategic communications directorPorter, 40, has been described as one of the most important players in Trump’s daily Oval Office orbit, and helped him write last week’s State of the Union Address. Hope Hicks, 29, was seen leaving her D.C. apartment with White House Staff Secretary Porter 10 days ago.

On Wednesday, it was alleged that Hicks (shown in a file photo) was involved in crafting the response to DailyMail.com from the White House for Porter following Willoughby’s on-the-record allegations of domestic abuse.

colbie holderness rob porter Custom

Images of Colbie Holderness after an alleged incident with her then-husband, Rob Porter, in the early 2000s. (Courtesy of Colbie Holderness)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Look at the picture, Ruth Marcus, Feb. 7, 2018. The woman’s eye socket is the sickly green-yellow of a healing bruise. Around the eyelid, and in a sickening swoosh underneath, there is the deep plum of blood pooling around broken capillaries.

The picture, if you haven’t seen it, shows Colbie Holderness, one of two ex-wives who have accused senior White House aide Rob Porter of physically abusing them. Porter, in the statement announcing his resignation Wednesday, declared that “these outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.”

john kelly o dhsExplain how White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (shown at right), who reportedly knew of the FBI reports, could assert, in a statement circulated before and after the abuse photos emerged, “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional.”

Consider Porter, the seeming golden boy. Harvard University. Rhodes scholar. Republican bona fides (his father, Roger Porter, worked for President George H.W. Bush; Rob Porter served as chief of staff to Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch) to match what the Deseret News called his “strong Latter-day Saint pedigree.” A man like that wouldn’t abuse his wife, would he?

john f kelly homeland security general wWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: General John Kelly: A history of xenophobia from Miami to DC, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 7, 2018. In many ways, Donald Trump’s chief of staff, retired General John Kelly (shown before his dismissal by President Obama), complements the [current] commander-in-chief’s numerous racist and xenophobic gas lighting and dog whistles.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats are hoping for an election wave. They shouldn’t be too confident, Karen Tumulty, Feb. 7, 2018 (print edition).  So what could go wrong for Democrats in 2018? Plenty, actually. Already, Democratic strategists are getting a little jumpy about the party’s shrinking advantage in the polls, especially the closely watched generic-ballot test, where voters are asked which party they would prefer to represent them in Congress.

U.S. Involvement In Syrian War Heats Up

cnn logoCNN, Defensive US military strikes kill 100 pro-regime forces in Syria, Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, Feb. 7, 2018. The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria conducted air and artillery strikes against pro-regime forces in Syria on Wednesday, killing over 100 pro-regime fighters, the coalition said in a statement.

Centcom logoThe coalition said the strikes had been carried out after forces allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “initiated an unprovoked attack” against a well-established Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters where coalition advisers were working with US-backed Syrian fighters.

Some 500 pro-regime troops carried out the attack using artillery, mortar fire and Russian-made tanks, a US military official said.”Syrian pro-regime forces maneuvered T-54 and T-72 main battle tanks with supporting mortar fire in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces approximately 8 kilometers east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham, Syria,” the military official said. 

Global News: Syria Skewers ISIS

syrian 160mm battery

Syrian government 160 mm. battery takes aim at ISIS positions, with barrels aimed for short-range targets (file photo)

AMN (Al-Masdar News), ISIL’s defenses fall apart in northeast Hama as Syrian Army troops liberate dozens of areas, Leith Aboufadel Feb. 7, 2018. The so-called Islamic State’s (ISIS) defenses are falling apart in the northeastern countryside of the Hama Governorate, as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) continues its large-scale advance in this rural region. Led by their elite Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army liberated another 19 towns from the Islamic State today after overrunning the Islamic State’s northern and southern flanks in northeaster Hama.

Inside Washington

north korean parade 4 15 2017

North Koreans March in 2017 Military Parade

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspired by French military display, Trump has the Pentagon planning a large-scale parade in Washington, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker, Feb. 7, 2018 (print edition). At a meeting last month between President Trump and top military officials, “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” one official said. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

Muller Investigation Of Trump

washington post logochristopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedWashington Post, How a British former spy became a flash point in the Russia investigation, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 7, 2018 (print edition). Christopher Steele (shown at right) struggled to navigate dual obligations — to his private clients, who were paying him to help Hillary Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life in espionage.

Personality: Trump’s Hair-Raising Photo

djt hair feb 2 2018 screengrabPresident Trump ascending the steps up to Air Force One, Feb. 2, 2018.

New York Magazine, Donald Trump’s Hair Illusion Came Undone and We All Missed It, Jonathan Chait, Feb. 7, 2018. Last Friday, at the end of one of those frenetic weeks of news that now happen every week, President Trump boarded Air Force One. The wind whipped across the tarmac with unusual force. Trump, who normally has a MAGA hat for such occasions, was unusually unprepared.

As he ascended the stairs, cameras had a rear-facing view of the president’s scalp as the howling gusts lifted his combed-over strands straight into the air, and the long-concealed bare scalp below was briefly exposed to the daytime cable audience and to Ashley Feinberg, who spotted the big reveal.

It was horrific:

It was the worst hair day of what has been a bad hair life. And it may seem cheap and low to mock Trump’s absurd efforts to conceal his hair loss.

But Trump is a man obsessed with image in ways that go beyond the normal human concern with looking presentable. Image is Trump’s moral code. He dismisses his political rivals for being short. He sees his succession of wives as visual testament to his own status. He selects his Cabinet on the basis of their looking the part. He conscripts the military as a prop to bathe himself in an aura of presidential grandeur.

Trump’s absurd hair is of a piece with his lifelong attempt to market himself as a brilliant deal-maker and stable genius. So yes, it is okay to laugh when the ruse is exposed.

Media: Billionaire Buys LA, San Diego Dailies

washington post logotronc text logoWashington Post,Los Angeles Times owner sells paper to local billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, ending a long-troubled relationship, Paul Farhi, Feb. 7, 2018. In a $500 million deal, Chicago-based Tronc Inc. (Tribune Online Content) also sold him the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Media: Corrupt Coverage Exposed At Newsweek?

washington post logoWashington Post, Firings, resignations and turmoil at Newsweek, Abby Ohlheiser, Feb. 7, 2018 (print edition). Top editors and a reporter who were reportedly working on an investigation into Newsweek’s parent company were fired. Two of Newsweek’s top editors — editor in chief Bob Roe and executive editor Kenneth Li — were abruptly fired from the company on Monday, along with reporter Celeste Katz.

newsweek logoThe decision caused chaos among the newsroom’s remaining employees, who first found out about the firings not from management, but through word of mouth. Two reporters at Newsweek and its sister publication, the International Business Times, have since resigned in protest.Katz.

Roe and Li were among a team of reporters and editors who were pursuing an investigative piece into the finances of Newsweek’s parent company, the Newsweek Media Group. The company publishes Newsweek, the International Business Times and a handful of other websites.

Disaster Damage In U.S. Territories

washington post logoWashington Post, Shredded roofs, shattered lives: Storms smash Virgin Islands’ middle class, Tim Craig, Feb. 7, 2018 (print edition). Analysts warn that without an infusion of cash from the federal government, the U.S. territory could fall into a permanent decline that would send thousands of refugees to the mainland.

Workplaces: Consumers vs. Taxi Drivers?

ny times logoNew York Times, A Driver’s Suicide Reveals the Dark Side of the Gig Economy, Ginia Bellafante, Feb. 6, 2018. Doug Schifter, a New York livery driver, said he killed himself to illuminate how ride hailing services have devastated taxi workers financially.

Last spring, Bhairavi Desai, a middle-aged woman without a driver’s license and thus an unlikely leader for thousands of mostly male drivers in the world’s largest market for hired vehicles, delivered emotional testimony in front of New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission about the mounting existential difficulties in her field.

The executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Ms. Desai had been a labor activist for 21 years but she had never seen anything like the despair she was witnessing now — the bankruptcies, foreclosures and eviction notices plaguing drivers who were calling her with questions about how to navigate homelessness and paralyzing depression.“

Half my heart is just crushed,’’ she said, “and the other half is on fire.

”The economic hardship that Uber and its competitors had inflicted on conventional drivers in New York and London and other cities had become overwhelming

Crime, Immigration Around the Nation

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Finds No Evidence of Attack in Death of Border Agent, Matthew Haag and Caitlin Dickerson, Feb. 7, 2018. An F.B.I. investigation into the mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent found unconscious off a remote West Texas highway in November has been unable to determine how he was injured, though the bureau said on Wednesday that it had found no evidence suggesting he had been attacked.

Just hours after the agents, who had been on duty, were found in a dark culvert off Interstate 10, about 100 miles east of El Paso, politicians seized on the news as a flash point in a broader debate about immigration and border security. President Trump called it an “attack” and further evidence that a wall was needed along the United States’ border with Mexico. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said it underscored the constant dangers of safeguarding often rugged and remote terrain.

Feb. 6

CNN, Flake to Trump: Treason is not a punchline, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, Feb. 6, 2018 (4:10 mins). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor to respond to President Donald Trump’s calling some Democrats who did not applaud during the State of the Union address treasonous and un-American. The White House says President Trump was joking.

washington post logoDonald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Washington Post, House panel clears release of Democrats’ rebuttal to GOP memo, setting up a showdown with Trump, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump (shownin a Gage Skidmore portrait) has signaled a reluctance to approve the document’s release. Democrats say their 10-page rebuttal offers important context for assertions made by Republicans about the FBI’s surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

New Sex Harassment, #MeToo Scandal In Government

washington post logoWashington Post, Oregon legislator groped, grabbed women right on the State Senate floor, says official report, Travis M. Andrews, Feb. 7, 2018. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) called on Republican state Sen. Jeff Kruse to resign after a report by an independent investigator found he repeatedly subjected women to uncomfortable hugging and unwanted touching — sometimes on the Senate floor or in the governor’s office — even after repeated warnings. He did some of these things even while cameras were rolling, the investigator found.

Stock Market Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Has Trumphoria Finally Hit a Wall? Paul Krugman, Feb. 6, 2018 (print edition). Dr. Paul Krugman, shown at right, is a Nobel-prizewinning economist and New York Times columnistpaul krugman. The market plunge of the past few days might mean nothing at all. Still, market turmoil should make us take a hard look at the economy’s prospects.

And what the data say, I’d argue, is that at the very least America is heading for a downshift in its growth rate; the available evidence suggests that growth over the next decade will be something like 1.5 percent a year, not the 3 percent Donald Trump and his minions keep promising.

Citizen Action

john perkinsJohnPerkins.org, Opinion: Sex Crimes, Government Transparency, and You, John Perkins, Feb. 6, 2018. John Perkins, shown at left, is a best-selling author and motivational speaker. Previously, he was whistleblower against the global banking industry for which he served as an influential economist or, as he described it, “economic hit man.”

harvey weinsteinThe Harvard Business Review recently reported that, since the October allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein (shown at right), nearly 100 other powerful people – “names you probably recognize” – have been accused of sexual harassment, rape, and other misconduct.

cia logoThese revelations follow the avalanche of accusations against Catholic priests and their superiors that have been sweeping the press for years. The stories of crimes involving sex accompany revelations about police brutality across the United States, a slew of leaked documents concerning covert and illegal CIA and NSA activities from WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, exposures of illegal financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people in the Panama Papers, and numerous other exposes by whistleblowers who have revealed criminal activities in politics, healthcare, technology, media, education, banking, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, and entertainment.

Let us learn from those who tolerated the mass-murdering dictators, the sex criminals, and the corporate robber barons that we cannot tolerate our own inclinations to remain silent. It is up to each and every one of us to speak out and to take action.

Crime, Courts Around the U.S.

abc news logoABC News, Trump calls crash that killed NFL player ‘disgraceful,’ allegedly caused by undocumented immigrant, Emily Shapiro, Feb. 6, 2018. After an undocumented immigrant was accused of causing a car crash on Sunday that killed two people, including an NFL player, President Donald Trump weighed in, raising the incident as another example in his push for immigration reform.

Trump wrote on Twitter this morning that it’s “so disgraceful that a person illegally in our country” led to the NFL player’s death.Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, 26, was in a car driven by Jeffrey Monroe, 54, early Sunday when Jackson became ill, the Indiana State Police said.

orrego savala mugshotMonroe had pulled to the side of an interstate and both men were standing outside the car when a truck drove onto the emergency shoulder, hitting both men, police said.The suspect, who fled on foot and was later apprehended, is a citizen of Guatemala and is allegedly in the United States illegally, police said. Suspect Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37 (right, in a mug photo), was previously deported in 2007 and 2009, police said

Angry Voters?

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Are Citizens Finally Waking Up to Fight Gerrymandering? Max Skidelsky, Feb. 6, 2018. Are Citizens Finally Waking Up to Fight Gerrymandering? The practice of gerrymandering has subverted US democracy for more than 200 years. Now it finally seems as though voters are fed up with being disenfranchised in this way and are pushing for changes through grassroots movement.

The reason legislators have so often drawn their own odd-looking district lines for nearly as long as the United States has existed is obvious. Because it is an effective way to keep winning races. For example, in the special election for Alabama’s Senate seat, the winning candidate, Democrat Doug Jones, won the popular vote by 1.5 percent.

However, because of the way the state’s congressional districts have been gerrymandered, his opponent, Republican Roy Moore, actually won more votes in six out of Alabama’s seven districts.

Inside Washington

ny times logoNew York Times, EMA Vendor Fired, millions of Meals Short, Patricia Mazzei and Agust Armendaiz, Feb. 6, 2018. FEMA terminated a big contract with a tiny vendor hired to produce meals for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Now, Congress is asking questions

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s ‘marching orders’ to the Pentagon: Plan a grand military parade, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker, Feb. 6, 2018. President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

washington post logotammy duckworth cnn jan 21 18Washington Post, Sen. Duckworth: I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to clap when Trump demands, Kristine Phillips, Feb. 6, 2018. The Illinois Democrat (shown in a file photo), an Iraq War veteran, blasted the president after he called Democrats “treasonous” for not applauding him during the State of the Union.

Global News: U.S. Alliances Split In Syria

Moon of Alabama, Commentary: Syria: Is The Turkish Attack On Afrin Intended To Split The U.S.-Kurdish Alliance? b, Feb. 6, 2018. The successful Syrian army operation to liberate Abu-Duhur airbase left a large enclave (pink) controlled by al-Qaeda and ISIS fighters in east-Hama. Further advances towards Idleb have been halted for now to clean up the cauldron that could otherwise create future troubles behind the lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, A girl was found alive on a snowy mountain where 15 Syrians died. Who was she? Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous; Photos by Diego Ibarra Sánchez, Feb. 6, 2018 (print edition). Rescuers posted photos of the 3-year-old girl — who was found unconscious and burned from frostbite — in hopes that someone would claim her.

JFK Assassination Disclosure Litigation

jefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, Opinion: I’ll be in federal court on March 19 talking about certain JFK files that the CIA would really prefer you not think about, Jefferson Morley, Feb. 6, 2018. Author, reporter and JFKFacts.org editor Jefferson Morley is shown at right. On Monday morning March 19  my attorneys Jim Lesar and Dan Alcorn and I will appear at the Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse in Washington for oral arguments in my long-running lawsuit, Morley v. CIA.

The issue before the three-judge panel: has there been a “public benefit” from the lawsuit’s disclosure of long-secret documents about deceased CIA officer George Joannides?Lesar will make the common sense case that widespread media interest in Morley v. CIA is proof of public benefit. The editors of the New York Times, Fox News, the San Diego Union, St. Paul Pioneer Press, CBS News in Dallas, and the New Yorker, among many other news organizations have seen fit to report on Morley v. CIA.

george joannides cia citation 1981 cia photoRetired CIA officer George Joannides (left in a CIA photo) received the Career Intelligence Medal in 1981, two years after misleading House investigators about what he knew about Lee Oswald. The Times, the Daily Mail,  and a dozen other news sites published a photo of Joannides receiving a CIA medal after he stonewalled congressional investigators about what he knew about the Cuban contacts of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

What’s New? Joannides’ curious, if not suspicious, role in the JFK story was utterly unknown before I filed my lawsuit. My argument: greater knowledge about the JFK story is benefits the public.

cia logoThe CIA wants their day in court too: Benton Peterson, a Trump Justice Department attorney, representing the agency, will argue that there has been no “public benefit” from the information obtained under Morley v. CIA. The CIA, he will say, should not have to pay my court costs for 15 years of successful litigation.

The CIA’s argument is revealing. The agency has been fighting my request for Joannides’ files since I sued in December 2003, They want to say publicly: Pay no attention to the story of George Joannides. They also want to say: And pay no attention to this Morley character. He’s a schemer who filed this lawsuit to get the government to pay the copying costs of his research. (The Obama Justice Department actually made this argument at one point.)

The CIA needs their day in court for purposes of JFK damage control. They need to assure the public and the courts there is no benefit from studying the story of Joannides, a CIA official who funded the first JFK conspiracy theory, who stonewalled JFK investigators, and who received a medal for his career job performance.

Feb. 5

Muller Investigation

robert mueller doj portrait Custom

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III

Wired, Bob Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger — and Further Along — Than You Think, Garrett Graf, Feb. 5, 2018. The Mueller investigation appears to have been picking up steam in the last three weeks — and homing in on a series of targets.

President Trump claimed in a tweet over the weekend that the controversial Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him, clearing him of the cloud of the Russia investigation that has hung over his administration for a year now..

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if anything, the Mueller investigation appears to have been picking up steam in the past three weeks — and homing in on a series of targets. Last summer, I wrote an analysis exploring the “known unknowns” of the Russia investigation — unanswered but knowable questions regarding Mueller’s probe.

Today, given a week that saw immense sturm und drang over Devin Nunes’ memo — a document that seems purposefully designed to obfuscate and muddy the waters around Mueller’s investigation — it seems worth asking the opposite question: What are the known knowns of the Mueller investigation, and where might it be heading?

The first thing we know is that we know it is large. We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office — some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads.

But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe. Right now, we know it involves at least five separate investigative angles:

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering. Business dealings and money laundering related to Trump campaign staff, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates, are a major target of the inquiry. While this phase of the investigation has already led to the indictment of Gates and Manafort, it almost certainly will continue to bear further fruit. Gates appears to be heading toward a plea deal with Mueller, and there is expected to be a so-called “superseding” indictment that may add to or refine the existing charges. Such indictments are common in federal prosecutions, particularly in complicated financial cases where additional evidence may surface. Mueller’s team is believed to have amassed more than 400,000 documents in this part of the investigation alone. There have also been reports — largely advanced through intriguing reporting by BuzzFeed — about suspicious payments flagged by Citibank that passed through the accounts of the Russian embassy in the United States, including an abnormal attempted $150,000 cash withdrawal by the embassy just days after the election.’

2. Russian Information Operations. When we speak in shorthand about the “hacking of the election,” we are actually talking about unique and distinct efforts, with varying degrees of coordination, by different entities associated with the Russian government. One of these is the “information operations” (bots and trolls) that swirled around the 2016 election, focused on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, possibly with the coordination or involvement of the Trump campaign’s data team, Cambridge Analytica.

Roll Call, Committee Greenlights Democratic Intelligence Memo, John T. Bennett, Feb.5, 2018. ‘We want to make sure the White House does not redact our memo for political concerns,’ Schiff says.

The House Intelligence Committee unanimously approved for release a memo compiled by ranking member Adam Schiff and his staff that rebuts one from the GOP side accusing senior law enforcement officials of missteps early in the Russia election meddling probe.“We want to make sure the White House does not redact our memo for political concerns,” Schiff said.

“We think this will be very useful information for the American people to see.” President Donald Trump will have five days to decide whether to make the Democrats’ document public as he did the Republican memo that was compiled by Chairman Devin Nunes and his staff.

washington post logodevin nunes head oWashington Post, Analysis: As fallout continues over the GOP memo, six questions linger over the Nunes probe, James Hohmann, Feb. 5, 2018. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), shown at right, has boasted that his investigation is in “Phase 2” and he now plans to train his fire on other targets. But other Republicans are distancing themselves from Nunes and Democrats plan to push for the release of their rebuttal memo at a meeting later today.

huff post logoHuffPost, Trump: Dems who didn’t clap  at SOTU ‘Treasonous,’ Marina Fang, Feb. 5, 2018. President Attacks Democrats Not Clapping At State Of The Union As ‘Un-American.’ President Donald Trump accused Democrats on Monday of being “un-American” and “treasonous” in a campaign-style speech in Cincinnati that was actually meant to tout the recent GOP tax bill and the economy.

djt sotu screen jan 30 2018“Can we call that treason?” Trump said, referring to Democrats who did not clap for him during his State of the Union address last week (shown in a file photo with the president flanked by two congressional leaders). “Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

At the State of the Union address, it is typical for politicians of the president’s party to enthusiastically applaud, while lawmakers in the opposite party usually have a muted response.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Mocks ‘Little Adam Schiff’ as House Democrats Seek to Counter G.O.P. Memo, Michael D. Shear, Mark Landler and Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 5, 2018. President Trump accused a top Democratic lawmaker on Monday of being “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” calling Representative Adam Schiff of California “Little Adam Schiff” and accusing him of illegally leaking confidential information from the House Intelligence Committee.

adam schiff officialIn an early-morning tweet, Mr. Trump ominously said that Mr. Schiff (shown at left) “must be stopped,” though he did not elaborate.The president’s insult came as Mr. Schiff is expected to call for a vote on Monday afternoon for the Intelligence Committee to release a Democratic rebuttal to the classified memo that the panel’s Republicans released on Friday, which accuses federal law enforcement officials of abusing their powers to spy on a former Trump campaign official.

Huge Stock Market Plunge

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow closes down nearly 1,200 points after plunging more than 1,500 points in volatile trading, Thomas Heath​, Feb. 5, 2018.  One of the big worries is that the Federal Reserve, under new chairman Jerome Powell who was officially sworn in Monday, will accelerate interest rate hikes and slow the economy. A slowing economy would be likely to turn the bull market toward bearish.

Media and Presidency In JFK Era

jfk national press club 1961

President John F. Kennedy stopped by National Press Club President John Cosgrove’s inauguration in 1961, and JFK followed up with a letter about how much he enjoyed accepting his Club membership in person.

National Press Club, President Kennedy’s letter to Club President Cosgrove found, Staff report, Feb. 5, 2018. When the John F. Kennedy Library put together a joint program with the National Press Club last week, it sent something that the Club had not seen: A copy of President Kennedy’s letter to Club President John Cosgrove just after Kennedy attended Cosgrove’s inaugural party.

That Kennedy stopped by Cosgrove’s party just two weeks after Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 is a part of Club lore. The photo of the meeting is in the Cosgrove Lounge. Cosgrove, who was an active Club member right up to his death at the age of 98 last year, never tired of quipping: “Well I went to Kennedy’s inaugural, why shouldn’t he come to mine?”

Club historian Gil Klein recounted the event during the joint program with the Kennedy Library to discuss Kennedy’s legacy 100 years after his birth.Klein read Kennedy’s letter to Cosgrove written after Cosgrove’s inaugural. While the Kennedy Library had a copy, the Club’s archives did not.

Cosgrove did not know that Kennedy would make an appearance until the afternoon of the event. After Cosgrove presented the president with his membership card, No. 2973, Kennedy praised the Club for sticking to its rules and having “the decency to charge me the initiation fee and dues.”

The Club, unfortunately, cashed that check, which would be worth many times the $90 value today.

The president’s appearance was brief, but he greeted the head table guests, which included House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Chief Justice Earl Warren. He had to leave before the swearing-in ceremony, but in departing, he looked at Cosgrove and said, “I’m sorry I can’t stay any longer, but be sure to keep your hand on the Bible.”

That apparently was a reference to his own inauguration when someone watching it on television claimed that Kennedy’s hand was not on the Bible when he took the oath.

Supreme Court On Gerrymanders

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court refuses to block Pennsylvania ruling invalidating state’s congressional map, Robert Barnes, Feb. 5, 2018.  The court denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing the map, meaning the 2018 elections probably will be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats.


ICE logo

washington post logojohn mcCain oWashington Post, New bipartisan immigration bill to be introduced in the Senate, Ed O’Keefe​, Feb. 5, 2018.  The bill from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz., shown at right) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) would grant permanent legal status to immigrant “dreamers” in the country since 2013. It would also bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border but would not call for the $30 billion President Trump is seeking for wall and fence construction.

War Threats

washington post logonorth korea flagWashington Post, Democrats say Trump lacks legal authority for preemptive, ‘bloody nose’ strike on North Korea, David Nakamura, Feb. 5, 2018. In a letter to be sent to President Trump, 18 senators warned him about the risks of military action and sought details on the sudden derailment.

Sexual Harassment

Daily Beast, She Was Assaulted by the Head of the National Archives. Then the Bush White House Helped Cover It Up, Anthony Clark, Feb. 5, 2018. Allen Weinstein was allowed to resign from his post without punishment or public notice. He then went on to sexually assault again.

Global News: Turkey-Syria Conflict?

Al-Masdar News, Breaking: Syrian Army looses artillery fire on Turkish forces in south Aleppo, casualties reported, Andrew Illingworth, Feb. 5, 2018. The Syrian Arab Army or allied paramilitary groups or both have reportedly started shelling the freshly established positions of Turkish forces in the southern countryside of Aleppo province according to both opposition and pro-government sources.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Trump Administration Planning Pinochet-type Coup in Venezuela, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 5, 2018. The retrograde Donald Trump administration is planning a military coup in Venezuela to oust the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

rex tillerson state deptU.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (shown at left), speaking at the University of Texas prior to embarking on a multi-nation tour throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, said the military in Latin America has often intervened in Latin American politics during times of serious crises.Tillerson’s remarks conjured up scenes from America’s dark past in Latin America.

To make matters worse, Tillerson invoked the imperialistic Monroe Doctrine of 1823, stressing that it is as “relevant today as it was the day it was written.” The Monroe Doctrine, throughout American history, has been used by the United States to justify military interventions in Latin America, often with the aim of establishing “banana republics” subservient to Washington’s whims.

Feb. 4

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, At FBI, anger and fear of lasting damage amid GOP attacks, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 4, 2018 (print edition). Bureau officials say the accusations in the memo produced by House Republicans are inaccurate and corrode the agency’s ability to remain independent and do its job. “There’s a lot of anger. The irony is it’s a conservative-leaning organization, and it’s being trashed by conservatives,” one law enforcement official said.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump on memo, Elise Viebeck and Shane Harris​, Feb. 4, 2018. In a sign of a growing rift within the House GOP, four members of the panel dismissed the idea pushed by President Trump and other Republicans that the controversial memo criticizing how the FBI handled elements of its Russia probe undermines the investigation led by Robert Mueller III into possible coordination between Trump associates and the Kremlin.

trey gowdy better o SmallRep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who helped draft the memo, said Trump should not fire Rosenstein and rejected the idea that the document has bearing on the investigation. “I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” Gowdy, who also chairs the House Oversight Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

U.S. Politics

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Braces for Hurdles as Statehouses Are Put in Play, Alexander Burns and Alan Blinder, Feb. 4, 2018 (print edition). Republicans have dominated state governments for almost a decade. But Democrats are exploiting President Trump’s unpopularity in an effort to make inroads in 2018.

Another U.S. Train Wreck

washington post logoWashington Post, 2 dead, 116 hurt after Amtrak train rams empty freight train in South Carolina, Alisa Tang, Lori Aratani and Faiz Siddiqui​, Feb. 4, 2018. The train going from New York to Miami derailed outside Columbia overnight. Both fatalities were Amtrak employees, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The incident was the third crash involving the passenger rail service in less than three months.

Inside Washington

washington post logokt mcfarlandWashington Post, K.T. McFarland withdraws nomination to be Trump’s ambassador to Singapore, Shane Harris, Feb. 4, 2018 (print edition). The former White House official (shown at right) faces scrutiny in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Ryan celebrated the tax cut with a tweet about a secretary saving $1.50 a week, Avi Selk, Feb. 4, 2018. Never mind all the Democrats who call the GOP’s tax bill a deficit-busting giveaway to the rich; House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has been enthusiastically promoting it as a middle-class tax windfall. [His Tweet is below, along with a reply by a parodist.]

paul ryan twitter on tax cut CustomHe’s been coaching other Republican lawmakers to sell the $1.5 trillion tax cut to voters, and telling people on Twitter to check their paychecks for wage hikes. The bill — which was deeply unpopular when it passed along party lines in December — is now breaking even in a new opinion poll.So Saturday morning, by way of good news,

Ryan’s Twitter account shared a story about a secretary taking home a cool $6 a month in tax savings.

The tweet was deleted within hours, probably guaranteeing it will never be forgotten, and leaving people baffled as to why Ryan ever thought it would make a good advertisement for the tax plan’s supposed middle-class benefit.

Global News: ISIS Threats

ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands of ISIS Fighters Flee in Syria, Many to Fight Another Day, Eric Schmitt, Feb. 4, 2018. Thousands of Islamic State foreign fighters and family members have escaped the American-led military campaign in eastern Syria, according to new classified American and other Western military and intelligence assessments, a flow that threatens to tarnish American declarations that the militant group has been largely defeated.

isis terrorists fileAs many of the fighters flee unfettered to the south and west through Syrian Army lines, some have gone into hiding near Damascus, the Syrian capital, and in the country’s northwest, awaiting orders sent by insurgent leaders on encrypted communications channels.

Other battle-hardened militants, some with training in chemical weapons, are defecting to Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria. Others are paying smugglers tens of thousands of dollars to spirit them across the border to Turkey, with an eventual goal of returning home to European countries.

Some 40,000 fighters (with some shown in a file photo above right) from more than 120 countries poured into the battles in Syria and Iraq over the past four years, American and other Western officials say. While thousands died on the battlefield, officials say many thousands more probably survived to slip away to conflicts in Libya, Yemen or the Philippines, or have gone into hiding in countries like Turkey.

About 295 Americans are believed to have traveled to Iraq or Syria, or tried to, American officials said.Of more than 5,000 Europeans who joined those ranks, as many as 1,500 have returned home, including many women and children, and most of the rest are dead or still fighting, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s top counterterrorism official.

American History: 200th Anniversary of Illinois Statehood

illinois state societyC-SPAN, Political Leaders from Illinois, Feb. 4, 2018 (Recorded Nov. 28, 2017). The Illinois State Society hosted a “bicentennial reflections” conversation featuring journalists Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, shown at left, and Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, with moderator Ellen Shearer, at right, a professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the director of its center in Washington, DC. The journalists told stories about Illinois political leaders they have covered over the years, and they discussed the national role the state’s key figures have played in their lifetimes. Introduction: Jerry Weller, President, Illinois State Society.

Feb. 3

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Recriminations fly after release of GOP memo on FBI surveillance, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Philip Rucker, Feb. 3, 2018 (print edition). “I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country,” President Trump said. It is unclear whether Trump will use the memo to fire people involved in the Russia probe. Democrats warned against any dismissals at the Justice Department, saying such moves would trigger a constitutional crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. official overseeing Mueller and Russia probe under increasing pressure, Sari Horwitz, Feb. 3, 2018 (print edition).  After the release of the memo, President Trump won’t say whether he has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Who’s who in the GOP memo and how they’re connected,  Darla Cameron, Julie Vitkovskaya, Reuben Fischer-Baum, Ann Gerhart and Kevin Uhrmacher, Feb. 3, 2018 (print edition). (AP; Getty Images;republican elephant logo Evelyn Hockstein for The Post). A four-page GOP memo on the Russia investigation, also known as the “Nunes memo,” was released Friday. The document alleges that the FBI abused its surveillance authority when it sought a secret court order to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Nunes memo shows the opposite of what Trump hoped it would prove, Editorial Board, Feb. 3, 2018 (print edition). Even taken at face value, the infamous Nunes memo does nothing to discredit the Russia investigation, which was President Trump’s transparent aim in authorizing its release on Friday. It also does little to show abuse of surveillance law, which was the pretext on which House leaders justified its disclosure.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedThe memo argues that the FBI may have abused special spying authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), obtaining a warrant to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page using information from the controversial Christopher Steele (shown at right) dossier, a collection of allegations about Mr. Trump and his circle assembled by a former British intelligence agent with funding from Democrats.

The memo claims that the FBI did not disclose the dossier’s full provenance in its application for a FISA warrant, suggesting that the warrant against Mr. Page — and, therefore, perhaps, the early stages of the Russia investigation — was tainted.

washington post logornc logoWashington Post, Analysis: This was the week when the GOP truly became the party of Trump, Dan Balz, Feb. 3, 2018.  The release of the Nunes memo puts much of the Republican leadership fully behind the president in his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation. The support of the House speaker and many other leading Republicans only adds weight to what has become a Trump-led effort to muddy the eventual conclusions of the probe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Memo Doesn’t Vindicate Trump. It’s More Proof of Obstruction, Renato Mariotti (a Democratic candidate for attorney general in Illinois), Feb. 3, 2018.

djt official portraitAlthough at least one Republican maintains that the memo shows that Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. Comey and others committed “treason,” the memo itself does not allege that the F.B.I. or Department of Justice knowingly used false information or even that the information they used was false.

Because the allegations in the memo are legally irrelevant, I would be surprised if the memo was more than a short-lived publicity stunt. This is not the result Mr. Nunes expected when his staff wrote the memo, but that could be its lasting impact. Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti), a former federal prosecutor, is a Democratic candidate for attorney general in Illinois.

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Analysis: FBI has been under fire before, but conservatives are lobbing latest attacks, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 3, 2018. The right has long been among the biggest supporters of an agency whose agents largely see their mission to ferret out wrongdoing as nonpolitical. Now critics include a president who handpicked the current FBI leader. On Friday, when a memo the FBI disputes was released, Director Christopher Wray sent a message urging his people to “keep calm and tackle hard.”

Truancy Scandal Exposes DC ‘Reform’ As Scam

washington post logoWashington Post, Once a national model, D.C. public schools now a target of FBI investigation, Peter Jamison and Fenit Nirappil, Feb. 3, 2018 (print edition). With the revelation that more than a third of last year’s high school graduates should not have been awarded diplomas, the school system became an embarrassment for the city’s elected leaders. Some educators question the emphasis on metrics and high graduation rates as a measure of success.

Star Alleges Hollywood Harasssment, Rape

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Movie star Uma Thurman shown in her Facebook photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry, Maureen Dowd, Feb. 3, 2018. The actress is finally ready to talk about Harvey Weinstein.Yes, Uma Thurman is mad.She has been raped. She has been sexually assaulted. She has been mangled in hot steel. She has been betrayed and gaslighted by those she trusted.

harvey weinstein pulp fiction posterAnd we’re not talking about her role as the blood-spattered bride in “.” We’re talking about a world that is just as cutthroat, amoral, vindictive and misogynistic as any Quentin Tarantino hellscape.

harvey weinsteinWe’re talking about Hollywood, where even an avenging angel has a hard time getting respect, much less bloody satisfaction.

Playing foxy Mia Wallace in 1994’s Pulp Fiction and ferocious Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill, Volumes 1 (2003) and 2 (2004), Thurman was the lissome goddess in the creation myth of Harvey Weinstein (right) and Quentin Tarantino. The Miramax troika was the ultimate in indie cool. A spellbound Tarantino often described his auteur-muse relationship with Thurman.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Militants Shoot Down Russian Su-25 Warplane With MANPAD In Idlib Province (Videos), Staff report, Feb. 3, 2018. On February 3, the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) group, Jaysh al-Nasir, announced that its fighters had shot down a Su-25 warplane of the Russian Aerospace Forces over the village of Khan al-Sabil southwest of the city of Saraqib in the southeastern Idlib countryside.

The Su-25 pilot was reportedly captured right away by fighters of HTS and the FSA. In a leaked radio conversation, a commander of the militants ordered his fighters to execute the pilot then burn his body once he is captured.

Later, FSA and HTS supporters published on their Telegram channels a photo of the Su-25 pilot after he was executed with several gun shots. According to some reports, the pilot was killed by gun fire before he was able to land.

Dozens of Syrian and Russian aircraft are currently flying over the southeastern Idlib countryside in what appears to be an attempt to locate the group responsible for shooting down the Su-25 warplane.

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Shown above is a file photo of an Su-24 bomber, a different plane than the one shot down on Feb. 3

SouthFront, Russian Military Strikes Area Of Su-25 Downing. At Least 30 Militants Killed, Staff report, Feb. 3, 2018. The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted “a massive precision weapon strike” on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the area close to the Su-25 downing site, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The ministry added that at least 30 militants were killed in the attack.

Media Criticism of Columnbia Journalism Review Author

Moon of Alabama, Freelancer in Despair: My Fakenews Can’t Compete With Trump, b, Feb. 3, 2018. A few days ago the Columbia Journalism Review published a whiny piece [Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump].about dwindling foreign reporting in U.S. media: The story is buil[t] around one U.S. freelance reporter in Lebanon, Sulome Anderson, who laments that her work is no longer requested or published.

But is this caused by Trump? Or by the content of the stories Sulome Anderson tries to sell? Could it be that no one was interested because Anderson’s claimed access to Hizbullah has for years been laughed about? Could it be that that no one was interested because her last story for Newsweek (scroll to its end) needed five(!) factual corrections and had additional serious problems?

JFK Assassination Document Cover-up Report

Black Vault via Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), A detailed listing of JFK assassination related documents still being withheld (as of Jan. 29,2018), AARC and Black Vault staff reports, Feb. 3, 2018.

nara logoIn the words of an experienced FOIA attorney:

“Nearly 23,000 withheld assassination related documents represents 63.88% of the approximately 36,000 withheld records comprising the yet-to-be released JFK database, and raises questions relating to how many records there were to begin with. It seems most likely that the numbers represented in this important list published by the Black Vault refer to some documents which have never been released at all and many documents which have been only partially released.”

Among the 442,606 pages there are then many which have not yet been released in their entirety.”

This “withheld” list was released via the FOIA to The Black Vault in FOIA Case #NARA-NGC-2018-000072. It contains, as of January 29, 2018, the entire list of withheld documents by NARA regarding the JFK Assassination. It shows 22,933 Documents totaling 442,606 Pages.

According to NARA: “We conducted a search and were able to locate an EXCEL spreadsheet that lists everything that has not been released since December 15th, 2017 (the last release date). We are releasing this document if full with no redactions. The spreadsheet lists the JFK record number, the decision, the file number, document date, number of pages, and the origination agency.”

VIP Treatment For Gun-Toter At Airport

haley barbourBiloxi Sun Herald (Mississippi), Opinion: We give former Gov. Haley Barbour and the TSA the side-eye, Editorial Board, Feb. 3, 2018. A man was arrested at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport after a loaded handgun was found in his briefcase.

We know that man was former Gov. Haley Barbour because someone at TSA was fed up with the shenanigins at the agency and tipped off the Hattiesburg Patriot blog, which reported the arrest after receiving an email in response to its records request. It had asked for all emails, video, audio and communications. It got two emails. Another person tipped off the AP.

We asked the TSA media office for some clarification about what went out but received no response. Cue the rumor mill. Every time a government agency is less than forthcoming, people are free to believe the worst. You have to wonder what went on at that security checkpoint that set the employee off. Barbour says he was treated just like anyone else.

Really? He wasn’t treated like the Colorado lawmaker who just a few weeks before Barbour’s arrest was taken to jail in Denver after trying to board a plane with an unloaded gun. Barbour, on the other hand, was allowed to catch his flight.We don’t know which erodes public trust the most: Agencies that treat public servants like big shots, or the privileged public servant who insists he/she is treated just like a regular Joe/Jill.

Feb. 2

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

President Trump, shown in a Defense Department photo

GOP House Memo Defending Trump Against FBI

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Washington Post, Trump escalates attacks on FBI leadership. This time claiming agency favored Democrats over Republicans, John Wagner, Feb. 2, 2018. President Trump on Friday accused the top leadership of the Justice Department and FBI of favoring Democrats and having “politicized the sacred investigative process,” posting an incendiary tweet hours before the expected release of a controversial congressional memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI.

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans — something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump wrote on Twitter. He added: “Rank & File are great people!”

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 devin nunes head oWashington Post, Read the GOP memo alleging missteps by the FBI, Feb. 2, 2018.The document, created by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif., shown at right), alleges the FBI abused its authority, particularly when it sought a secret court order to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sentence buried in GOP memo may undercut Trump efforts to discredit Russia probe, Karen Tumulty and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 2, 2018. Though President Trump and his allies hope that the controversial release of a GOP-written memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI will tarnish the legitimacy of the entire Russia probe, that argument may be undercut by a single sentence buried near the end of the four-page document.

It confirms for the first time that the event that set the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in motion was not the surveillance of Trump adviser Carter Page — a subject upon which most of the memo dwells — but rather that it was opened as the result of information the bureau had received about another person connected to the Trump campaign.

That other individual is George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy consultant who in October became the first person associated with the campaign to plead guilty in the special counsel’s investigation. He is now reported to be a cooperating witness.“The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok,” the memo noted in its final paragraph.

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New York Times, The Republican Plot Against the F.B.I., Editorial board, Feb. 2, 2018 (print edition). So this is what a partisan witch hunt really looks like.

In a demonstration of unbridled self-interest and bottomless bad faith, the Trump White House and its Republican minions in Congress are on the cusp of releasing a “memo” that purports to document the biggest political scandal since Watergate.

To pull it off, they are undermining the credibility of the law enforcement community that Republicans once defended so ardently, on the noble-sounding claim that the American public must know the truth. Don’t fall for it.

rnc logoHuffPost, The Key Players In Trump’s ‘Deep State’ Conspiracy Theory Are All Republicans, Ryan J. Reilly and Jessica Schulberg, Feb. 2, 2018. Just worth remembering, The key law enforcement figures in what President Donald Trump and his allies have characterized as a “deep state” conspiracy against him are not lefties or even Democrats: They are Republicans. And Trump picked a number of them himself.

Trump and Republicans are continuing to attack the nation’s top law enforcement organizations to undermine the special counsel investigation into his campaign, which has already resulted in criminal charges against four Trump associates. But factually speaking, it’s really tough for Trump backers to credibly argue that the deck has been stacked against the president, simply based on the political leanings of the key figures in the case.

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devin nunes file flagNew York Times, Nunes Now Seen as Hero of the Hard Right, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Matthew Rosenberg, Feb. 2, 2018 (print edition). As House Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Devin Nunes (shown at right) has won praise from party members he once called “lemmings in suicide vests.”

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Washington Post, What if the memo is ‘a dud’? Aaron Blake, Feb. 2, 2018. Word seems to be leaking out of the White House that the memo we’ve been talking about all week could be, in the words of Axios’s Jonathan Swan, “a dud.” And the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman seems to be hearing the same thing.

Roll Call, Nunes Memo Could Weaken FISA, Congressional Panels, Gopal Ratnam, Feb. 2, 2018. Officials worry about compromising sources, chilling intelligence officials

Film Star Natalie Wood’s 1981 Drowning Reclassified

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Robert Wagner shown with his wife Natalie Wood in a 1960 publicity photo

Associated Press via New York Times, Natalie Wood’s Drowning Now Classified as ‘Suspicious Death,’ Staff report, Feb. 2, 2018 (print edition). New witnesses have emerged in the 1981 drowning of the actress Natalie Wood, prompting investigators to deem it a “suspicious death” and name Robert Wagner, her former husband, as a “person of interest,”

Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said on Thursday. For nearly four decades, mystery and speculation have swirled around the death of Ms. Wood, who was nominated for three Academy Awards and starred in the movies West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause.

Her death occurred on the weekend after Thanksgiving in 1981 while aboard a yacht with Mr. Wagner, the actor Christopher Walken and the boat’s captain.

After a night of drinking, her body was found floating in the waters surrounding Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California. Investigators initially ruled it an accident but reopened the case in 2011 to see whether Mr. Wagner, now 87, or anyone else played a role after the boat’s captain said he heard the couple arguing the night of her disappearance.

The coroner’s office amended Ms. Wood’s death certificate the next year to include “drowning and other undetermined factors.”

Lies, Fake News As Threats To Democracy

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Truth Decay: The Diminishing Role of Facts in Public Life, Jeff Schechtman, Feb. 2, 2018. The shrinking role of facts and evidence-based analysis in American public life poses a threat to democracy, to policy making, and to the very notion of civic discourse. This is the alarming conclusion spelled out in the RAND Corporation’s recently released 300+ page report provocatively titled “Truth Decay.” The co-author of this report, RAND political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh, is Jeff Schechtman’s guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast.

The report’s authors compare what’s happening now in the public arena to four other historical periods when truth was under siege: the era of “yellow journalism,” the rise of tabloids and talk radio, the impact of television on news media, and even the advent of so-called New Journalism.

Sex Harassment Allegations

ny times logoNew York Times, Humane Society C.E.O. Announces Resignation Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations, Julie Bosman, Matt Stevens and Jonah Engel Bromwich, Feb. 2, 2018. The chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States resigned on Friday after sexual harassment allegations prompted an uprising from staff and donors over his conduct.

The executive, Wayne Pacelle, had held onto support from the majority of the organization’s board, which voted on Thursday to immediately end an investigation into his behavior.

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Washington Post, Humane Society keeps CEO after sexual harassment complaints, prompting seven board members to resign, Danielle Paquette, Feb. 2, 2018 (print edition). The move to keep Wayne Pacelle at the helm of the animal charity defied demands by major donors to cut ties with him — or risk losing their support.

Feb. 1

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New York Times, Mueller Zeros In on Story Put Together About Trump Tower Meeting, Jo Becker, Mark Mazzetti, Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 1, 2018 (print edition). Aboard Air Force One on a flight home from Europe last July, President Trump and his advisers raced to cobble together a news release about a mysterious meeting at Trump Tower the previous summer between Russians and top Trump campaign officials.

robert mueller olderRather than acknowledge the meeting’s intended purpose — to obtain political dirt about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government — the statement instead described the meeting as being about an obscure Russian adoption policy.

The statement, released in response to questions from The New York Times about the meeting, has become a focus of the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right), the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller in recent months have questioned numerous White House officials about how the release came together — and about how directly Mr. Trump oversaw the process.

Mr. Mueller’s team recently notified Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the Air Force One statement is one of about a dozen subjects that prosecutors want to discuss in a face-to-face interview of Mr. Trump that is still being negotiated.

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Washington Post, With FBI statement on memo, Christopher Wray could now be in the president’s crosshairs, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 1, 2018 (print edition). The FBI thrust its low-key director squarely into the public eye and potentially into the crosshairs of the president Wednesday when it issued a statement declaring the bureau had “grave concerns” with a not-yet-public GOP memo that questions the basis to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking at the White House (File photo from screen gra

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray (shown at right) had privately warned the White House against releasing the memo, but as it became clearer Wednesday that his entreaties were likely to be rejected, his agency issued a terse two-paragraph message laying bare its worries about the document.

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Washington Post, Analysis: Why Trump is eager to release the Nunes memo, James Hohmann​, Feb. 1, 2018. Senior White House officials and advisers say the president sees the memo as key to making changes at the Justice Department, particularly pushing out Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

devin nunes head oThe classified memo written by Republican staffers for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), shown at left, could be released as early as today, despite an FBI statement expressing “grave concerns” and complaints from Democrats that it’s been materially altered at the last minute.

rod rosenstein cspan Senior White House officials and advisers say that President Trump wants the document published because he sees it as key to making changes at the Justice Department, particularly pushing out Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (shown at right), who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

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Washington Post, Schiff accuses Nunes of altering memo sent to White House, Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 1, 2018.  The House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat accused the panel’s chairman of making “material changes” to a GOP-drafted memo alleging surveillance abuses before sending it to the White House to approve its public release, a move he charges should prevent President Trump from releasing it.

adam schiff officialRep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), shown at left, sent a letter late Wednesday to Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), accusing him of “deliberately misleading” the committee. Schiff demanded that Nunes withdraw the version he sent to the White House because “there is no longer a valid basis for the White House to review the altered documents” and approve their public release.

Schiff and Nunes have been bitterly divided over the memo, which the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to release to the public, provided Trump does not block the move.

Schiff charged that the memo was “secretly altered” after that, and that Democrats were only “belatedly” given a chance Wednesday night to see the altered version that was sent to the White House. He said it included changes that members “were never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review, and never approved.”

The memo alleges that the former British spy who wrote a dossier, Christopher Steele, passed bad information to the FBI — though people familiar with the document said it does not determine whether he did so intentionally or by mistake.

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Washington Post, Analysis: The Nunes fiasco grows more preposterous by the hour, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 1, 2018. We cannot stress enough just how bizarre and outrageous is the Nunes scheme. FBI Director Christopher Wray, appointed by Trump, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, also appointed by Trump, have warned the president that disclosure of the memo would do great damage to American national security.

djt official portraitThe FBI publicly has, in essence, said the Nunes memo is misleading. And despite all that, the president plans to allow the release of the memo, which has one purpose only: to discredit and hobble the FBI and the Justice Department that are investigating the president. Bluntly put, Trump and Nunes surely seem to be acting with corrupt intent to taint the investigators in order to help Trump escape the legal and political consequences of possible wrongdoing.

Navy Corruption Scandal

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Washington Post, Leaks, feasts and sex parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia, Craig Whitlock, Feb. 1, 2018 (print edition). In a case that ranks as the worst corruption scandal in Navy history, authorities say a long line of officers from the USS Blue Ridge traded military secrets for a taste of the high life.

Consumer Protection Cutbacks

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Washington Post, Consumer watchdog office stripped of powers in lending discrimination cases, Renae Merle​, Feb. 1, 2018.The Trump administration’s move comes about two months after the president installed his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, at the head of an agency that has long been in the crosshairs of Republicans.

U.S. Immigration

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ICE logoNew York Times, Instead of Bridging Immigration Gap, Trump Widens It, Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker, Feb. 1, 2018 (print edition). Rather than act as a catalyst for cooperation, the president’s State of the Union address seemed to only increase the rancor, our correspondents wrote in an analysis of reactions to the speech.

U.S. Politics

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chelsea manning twitterWashington Post, Is Chelsea Manning eligible to run for U.S. Senate? Jenna Portnoy, Feb. 1, 2018. Chelsea Manning’s active duty status, which she needs to maintain to pursue an appeal of her conviction, conflicts with a military prohibition on political activity. The Army declined to comment on her campaign, citing the ongoing appeal. But experts said the Army would have little to gain by pursuing action against Manning (shown at right) for her decision to enter politics.

“The military’s interests are not really served by making a big deal about this,” said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School and runs a blog that addressed the subject. “In principle, I’m sure the Army would like for the Manning case to recede into the mist of history.”

Puerto Rican Children Still Suffering From Hurricane Power Outages

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Washington Post, ‘Why can’t I have my life back?’: In Puerto Rico, living and learning in the dark, Moriah Balingit, Feb. 1, 2018. Hurricane Maria devastated one of the nation’s largest and poorest school systems, a district of about 347,000 students where nearly all qualified for free meals. Even now, the storm hampers the day-to-day operation of schools. By the time classes resumed after winter break, the island’s education department had decided to close 21 schools because of damage or flagging enrollment.

Of the 1,110 that remained open, nearly one-third had no power. More than 25,000 students had fled the island — many without their parents — in search of more stable schooling in the continental United States. Nearly 200 educators joined them, exacerbating a teacher shortage and leaving scores of students unsupervised during parts of the school day. Teachers struggle to get the basic resources they need to do their jobs, shelling out their own money for food when cafeterias run out and for projectors and air conditioners.

#MeToo Commentary

Harvard Business Review, Now What? Joan C. Williams and Suzanne Lebsock, Feb. 1, 2018. Social media has created a remarkable moment for women, but is this really the end of the harassment culture?

Changing Media

time logo ogColumbia Journalism Review, Who killed Time Inc.? Howard R. Gold, Feb. 1, 2018. Once America’s great magazine company, the much-reduced publisher was bought by Iowa’s Meredith Corp. last year, with $650 million in equity from Koch Industries. This week its name was stripped from its headquarters in lower Manhattan, to which it moved in 2014 after abandoning the Mad Men-era Time-Life Building in Rockefeller Center.

On Thursday, Time Inc.’s corporate website was redirecting traffic to Meredith. Former Editor in Chief John Huey tweeted: “R.I.P. Time Inc. The 95-year run is over.”

While the demise of Time Inc. has been coming for months, even years, its arrival nevertheless is a jarring moment for journalism. In part, that’s because some of the greatest names in magazines have graced its pages.



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