September 2017 News Reports

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our September blend of mainstream and alternative news and views

Sept. 30

NBC News, Puerto Rico Crisis: San Juan Mayor Pleads for Federal Aid, Phil Helsel and Saphora Smith, Sept 30, 2017. The mayor of Puerto Rico's largest city earned a rebuke from President Donald Trump on Saturday after pleading for more federal assistance in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

"We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said Friday at a news conference. She highlighted donations from companies and others, including 200,000 pounds of food donated by Goya, as a contrast to federal help.

"This is what we got last night: four pallets of water, three pallets of meals and 12 pallets of infant food — which I gave them to the people of Comerio, where people are drinking off a creek," she said. "So I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell."

Donald Trump playing golf

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Washington Post, Ratcheting up tensions amid crisis, Trump attacks San Juan mayor, David Nakamura and John Wagner, Sept. 30, 2017. From his golf resort in New Jersey, the president (shown in a collage of file photos) criticized Carmen Yulín Cruz for what he called “poor leadership” after she pleaded for additional help in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Democrats, community leaders and major celebrities lambasted Trump for casting blame and appearing insensitive to the suffering of U.S. citizens.

Huffington Post, Retired Lieutenant General: While Trump Golfs, San Juan’s Mayor Is ‘Living On A Cot,’ Sebastian Murdock, Sept. 30, 2017. “And the president has shown again, you don’t give a damn about poor people.” 

puerto rico flag

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Washington Post, Their island homes wiped away in hurricanes, Caribbean residents wonder: Should we go back? Anthony Faiola, Samantha Schmidt and Marc Fisher, Sept. 30, 2017. Barbuda is a wasteland. Dominica is devastated. Puerto Rico has no power. On islands severely damaged by recent hurricanes, investors, governments, visitors and the people who have called these places home for generations now ask: Has something elemental changed? Might paradise turn uninhabitable? Is it time to go?

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Hits Back At San Juan's 'Nasty' Mayor Over Maria Response Criticism, Lee Moran, Sept. 30, 2017. President Donald Trump has lashed out at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz’s claims that the federal government isn’t doing enough to support Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

On Saturday morning, Trump used Twitter to criticize Cruz for her “poor leadership ability” and that of “others in Puerto Rico” who were “not able to get their workers to help.” The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he wrote.

“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” Trump added, noting how there were now 10,000 federal workers on the “totally destroyed” island who were “doing a fantastic job.”

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carmen yulin cruz hurricane nbc croppedWashington Post, Analysis: Trump just proved he doesn’t understand Puerto Rico’s plight by lashing out at a mayor, Aaron Blake, Sept. 30, 2017. This is who the president is. He doesn't accept criticism and move on; he brings a bazooka to a knife fight — even when those wielding the knife are trying to save lives. But it's also hugely counterproductive.

In three tweets, Trump has moved a simmering, somewhat-negative story for his administration to the front burner. He decided to attack a sympathetic character and turn this into a partisan political debate. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz (shown in an NBC photo standing in front of food donated by Goya) is pleading for help by saying, “We are dying.

Trump essentially told her to stop complaining. He's also arguing that somebody who is in charge of saving lives is somehow more interested in politics. That's a stunning charge.

Inside Washington: Military Cover-ups

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Washington Post, How the military handles sexual assault cases behind closed doors, Craig Whitlock, Sept. 30, 2017.An Air Force colonel who sent lurid recordings to a woman who worked for him was forced to retire and demoted one rank, but there was no trial, no publicity and no public record — a very familar ending for thousands of sexual assault investigations each year in the armed forces.

Siegelman Case Documentary Screened Sunday In Montgomery

don siegelman film poster atticus v architectAl.com, Documentary on Don Siegelman case to show Sunday in Montgomery, Mike Cason, Sept. 30, 2017. Davis Theatre in Montgomery on Sunday will show the documentary on the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman that was banned by another Montgomery theater. "Atticus vs. the Architect: The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman" (with a film poster above), will show at 3 p.m. It is being presented by Alabama Political Reporter.

leura canary newIn July, the board for Montgomery's Capri Theatre canceled an agreement with a group to show the two-hour film, which alleges that the former Alabama governor was the target of a Republican-led conspiracy. Board members said the film portrays Leura Canary, a member of the theater board (shown at right), in a false and defamatory manner.

Canary was U.S. attorney in Montgomery when Siegelman was under investigation. Siegelman claims she stayed involved in the case after recusing herself because of her husband's involvement with Republican campaigns. Courts rejected those claims during Siegelman's appeals.

steve wimberlySiegelman completed a 78-month federal prison sentence earlier this year. A jury convicted him of bribery, finding that he appointed HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy to a state regulatory board in exchange for $500,000 in donations to a campaign for a state lottery. Film producer Steve Wimberly is shown at right.

Siegelman has maintained his innocence, as has Scrushy, who was also convicted and has finished his sentence. Siegelman said he will devote himself to criminal justice reforms because of what happened in his case. Don Siegelman says God's purpose for him is justice reform.

Trump Presidency Overview

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoWashington Post, Past week shows Trump is struggling to be the president he promised, Jenna Johnson, Sept. 30, 2016.Several of the president's problems this week — lashing out at Puerto Rican officials begging for help following a devastating storm, launching a divisive debate with the NFL, and the failure of the latest attempt to repeal Obamacare — mirror those that have dogged his presidency since the first day. But they are becoming more troublesome as Trump and Republicans are increasingly under pressure to deliver on at least part of their agenda.

Changing U.S. Alliances In War Zones?

Global Research via South Front, Opinion: Middle East and Asia Geopolitics: Shift in Military Alliances? Michel Chossudovsky, Sept. 30, 2016. A profound shift in geopolitical alliances is occurring, which tends to undermine US hegemony in the broader Middle East Central Asian region as well as in South Asia. Several of America’s staunchest allies have “changed sides”. Both NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are in crisis.

Sept. 29

Scandals Swirl On Junket-Loving Health Secretary, VA Chief

Tom Price HHSRoll Call, Price Resigns as HHS Secretary, Trump Accepts, John T. Bennett, Sept. 29, 2017. ‘I certainly don’t like the optics,’ president said Friday. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday afternoon, according to the White House press secretary. Price reportedly spent as much as $400,000 of taxpayer monies on chartered flights, including one to the tune of $25,000 to fly between Washington and Philadelphia. Don J. Wright will serve as acting secretary effective at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Trump has let his frustration with Price show publicly in recent days. “He’s a very fine man. I certainly don’t like the optics,” Trump told reporters Friday as he left the White House for another weekend at his Bedminster, N.J., resort. “I’m not happy, I can tell you that. I’m not happy.”

Trump selected Price for the job, in large part, to help design a plan that would repeal and replace Barack Obama’s 2010 health law. Price had been the House Budget Committee chairman, viewed by the president as just the kind of individual that could negotiate with House and Senate Republicans to achieve that major campaign promise.

Price, however, had not delivered a bill to the president for his signature. A tipping point for Trump could have come when even congressional Republicans criticized Price’s actions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rebuked by Trump, Price Says He’ll Pay for His Own Travel, Katie Rogers, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 29, 2017 (print edition). “The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” said Tom Price, the health secretary, who said he would refund about an eighth of a $400,000 bill for travel on chartered jets. After being rebuked by President Trump for racking up at least $400,000 in travel on chartered flights, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on Thursday that he would pay back taxpayers for his part of the bill and stop flying on private jets.

 But that does not mean his job is safe. Mr. Trump has grown incensed by Mr. Price’s liberal renting of expensive planes, which he views as undercutting his drain-the-swamp campaign message, according to several administration officials with direct knowledge of the president’s thinking. Through intermediaries and the media, Mr. Trump has let it be known that offering reimbursement as repentance was no guarantee that Mr. Price would keep his job.

Pressed him on the cost of that travel — which Politico estimated at over $400,000, a number that has not been disputed — Mr. Price had only offered to pay back only $51,887. Mr. Price said that amount covers the cost of his seat on the trips, and the total bill remains under review. Combined, the total cost to taxpayers for Mr. Price’s flights comes to more than $1 million, according to Politico.

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david shulkinWashington Post, Veterans Affairs chief and his wife went to Europe. The government paid for her flight and meals, Jack Gillum, Alex Horton, Drew Harwell and Lisa Rein, Sept. 29, 2017. David Shulkin (shown at right) was accompanied by his wife on the working vacation during which he attended Wimbledon and took in a river cruise. The government paid for her expenses because she was traveling on “approved invitational orders.”

Google Crushing Alternative News Sites?

AlterNet, Editorial: Google's Threat to Democracy Hits AlterNet Hard, Dan Hazen (AlterNet executive editor), Sept. 29, 2017. When Google announced it was changing its algorithm to suppress fake news, AlterNet supported the decision. But something went very wrong... and now AlterNet, along with other progressive websites, has experienced an unprecedented drop in traffic from Google search engines that will start affecting AlterNet's budget.

google logo customThe story we are sharing with you is very disconcerting for independent media and America’s future, and frankly it is unprecedented in AlterNet’s history.It is hard to imagine anything scarier than Donald Trump’s presidency. But this problem is actually bigger than Trump, and it is a situation that certainly helps him. This story affects you too, in ways you may not fully be aware of — in fact it affects our whole media system and the future of democracy, and that is not an exaggeration.

The story is about monopoly on steroids. It is about the extreme and unconstrained power of Google and Facebook, and how it is affecting what you read, hear and see. It is about how these two companies are undermining progressive news sources, especially AlterNet.

In June, Google announced major changes in their algorithm designed to combat fake news. Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated in April that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive" sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”This seemed like a good idea. Fighting fake news, which Trump often uses, is an important goal that we share.

But little did we know that Google had decided, perhaps with bad advice or wrong-headed thinking, that media like AlterNet — dedicated to fighting white supremacy, misogyny, racism, Donald Trump, and fake news — would be clobbered by Google in their clumsy attempt to address hate speech and fake news.

Clinton, Bush Get Softball Treatment In Tom Cruise Drug Film

tom cruise barry seal american madeHollywood Reporter, Tom Cruise's 'American Made' Nixed Scene With Bill Clinton Getting Lap, Tatiana Siegel, Sept. 29, 2017. The film draws from a conspiracy theory that implicates both Clinton and George H.W. Bush in a massive operation that involved cocaine smuggling, money laundering and illegal arms exporting.

American Made, opening today, was poised to be the rare movie that could unite those on either side of the political divide. After all, it's based on the one conspiracy theory that implicates both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in a massive operation that involved cocaine smuggling, money laundering and illegal arms exporting.

But those hoping for some Clinton dirt will ultimately be disappointed. The filmmakers decided to cut a scene showing a young Clinton getting a lap dance at an Arkansas strip club. In the script, it's the moment when the movie's real-life protagonist Barry Seal, played by Tom Cruise, hatches an idea to enlist Clinton, who was then governor of Arkansas, in the CIA-backed scheme.

The scene was nixed from the Gary Spinelli-penned script because the producer and financier, Cross Creek Pictures, wanted to keep the film from being political, according to sources.

The Doug Liman-helmed film's original title, Mena, also was changed to American Made in an effort to downplay the Arkansas connections. "Mena" references the name of the town in Arkansas that contained a clandestine airfield used to smuggle guns and drugs back-and-forth to Latin America, during Clinton’s watch as governor.                   

Another scene cut from the film would also have implicated Bush, who was then Ronald Reagan's vice president, in the illegal scheme that sent arms to the Contras and even trained them on U.S. soil in Mena. The scene in the script put the former president in the same room as Seal. According to the conspiracy theorists, Bush was knee-deep in the plot dating back to his days as head of the CIA.

Inside Washington

ny times logoNew York Times, Lobbyists Rally to Save Breaks Under Threat in New Tax Plan, Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan, Sept. 29, 2017 (print edition).  The Republican plan to rewrite the tax code has set off a scramble among lobbyists and trade groups to protect valuable provisions.Critics warned that removing incentives could hurt the housing market, raise borrowing costs and increase the burden on families in high-tax states.

ny times logoNew York Times, Risk on All Sides as 4,800 Women Sue Over Johnson’s Baby Powder and Cancer, Tiffany Hsu, Sept. 29, 2017 (print edition). Johnson & Johnson has been accused of causing thousands of cases of ovarian cancer by plaintiffs who are mostly taking the company to court individually, not as a team.

2016 Voting Suppression?

greg palast hsOpEdNews, How Hillary Votes Were Suppressed in Wisconsin, Greg Palast (shown at right), Sept. 30, 2017. A new study estimates that at least 5.2% of voting-eligible registered voters in Wisconsin were prevented from voting in the 2016 presidential election because of new ID requirements. The number rises to 8% among low-income registrants. It's also worth noting that even more were deterred: 7.2% of nonvoting registrants earning above $25K per year and a whopping 21.1% of those earning below $25K per year.

But, far, far worse than the ID law was the study's finding that other vote suppression tactics meant that voters were blocked at the polling stations or never received their absentee ballots. Further, the survey does not count voters whose votes were rejected for ID but didn't know it (mail-ins and provisionals rejected). Crucially, the survey method (mailing) cut out the biggest block of voters sent away or discouraged for wrong ID: students told just two weeks before election they could not use their state photo ID.

Most reporters are number-phobic and merely copied the press release. As a former professor of statistics (really!), I can tell you that the full survey raw data shows unequivocally that Clinton's voters exceeded Trump's in Wisconsin — but they were blocked or left uncounted.

Global News

cuba flag saving Custom

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Washington Post, U.S. to slash embassy staff in Cuba; Americans warned not to travel there, Carol Morello, Sept. 29, 2017. More than half the diplomatic personnel are being yanked from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and Americans are warned not to visit the island nation. Officials said it’s for citizens’ own safety after a string of mysterious injuries harmed at least 21 Americans stationed in Cuba. The diplomatic drawdown means no visas will be processed at the embassy because there won’t be enough people to do the work.

 Nearly 10 months after the first complaints surfaced, neither U.S. or Cuban investigators are any closer to identifying what or who is causing the injuries. Investigators are looking into the possibility they were subjected to some sort of “sonic attack,” among other theories. Cuba has denied having anything to do with the injuries, and there has been speculation that agents acting on behalf of a third country may be responsible.

The decision to draw down the diplomatic presence in Cuba comes three days after Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez flew to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

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Washington Post, Opinion: ‘The American War’: You’ve watched all 18 hours of ‘The Vietnam War.’  Here’s what Ken Burns wants you to remember, Alyssa Rosenberg, Sept. 29, 2017, At the beginning of “The Vietnam War” (the recently completed 10-part PBS series), the novelist and former Marine Karl Marlantes said the United States treated the war like an alcoholic relative: something better left undiscussed.

America lost the Vietnam War, and we lost our sense of who we were along the way. If we could put Vietnam behind us, as former secretary of state Henry Kissinger suggested, maybe we could treat it like a mistake, an aberration, something that hadn’t fundamentally changed who we were as a country.

But by the final episode of the film, we begin to recognize that Vietnam wasn’t just a 10-year blip in the long march of American history. And talking about the war openly and honestly is the only way we can confront who we were before Vietnam, and what we’ve become in the 42 years since we left.

I talked to Ken Burns about the final episode of the documentary and what we should take away from it.

History via Hollywood

max holland Weekly Standard, The 'White Rat': Mark Felt — Watergate's 'Deep Throat' — wasn't interested in bringing down Nixon; he wanted the FBI's top job, Max Holland, Sept. 29, 2017. Oct. 9, 2017 (print edition). Max Holland, shown in a file photo, wrote,  "Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat."

Mark Felt was the No. 2 executive at the FBI during the Watergate investigation and a key source for the Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — the one they famously dubbed “Deep Throat.” I was working on a book about Felt in 2010 when I first began hearing the name Peter Landesman (director of  the new film The White Rat. about Watergate figure Mark Felt). I was interviewing FBI agents involved in the Watergate investigation or who knew Felt, and, invariably, no matter whom I contacted, Landesman had been there first.

Many films sit on the line dividing the wooden but accurate film from the wooden but inaccurate one. Thirteen Days, a depiction of the Cuban missile crisis, faithfully renders John F. Kennedy’s determination to avoid nuclear war while simultaneously perpetuating a big lie about Robert Kennedy being a dove from the start.

All the President’s Men is another problematic case. This 1976 paean to investigative journalism has many fabulist elements. It demonizes or skirts the government’s role in uncovering Watergate (nobody is doing their job except the reporters at the Washington Post), and it greatly distorts what went on inside the Post. It is, nonetheless, a diverting drama: eminently watchable after 40 years. And it will be on the minds of everyone who goes to see Hollywood’s latest stab at portraying Watergate: Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, written and directed by Peter Landesman.

Watching Landesman’s rendering of the iconic garage rendezvous between Felt and Woodward, one yearns for a cameo by Robert Redford, perhaps as the attendant, or even better, Hal Holbrook as an anonymous patron departing in his car. Even a bow to the beloved but apocryphal “follow the money” line is missing, and there is nothing memorable to take its place.

That scene also serves as a pointed reminder of what All the President’s Men is and what Mark Felt isn’t. Every sentient American already knew how the story turned out in 1976 when Pakula’s film premiered. But All the President’s Men was a crackling, gripping movie. Mark Felt is a plodding, unsubtle melodrama, guilty of the only cardinal sin in Hollywood: tedium. It is beyond rescue, even by Liam Neeson’s pensive looks.

Presidential Politics

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Washington Post, Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt response to Maria, Abby Phillip, Ed O'Keefe, Nick Miroff and Damian Paletta,​ Sept. 29, 2017. As storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food, water and electricity, President Trump and his top aides said virtually nothing about it for four days while he fixated on public feuds with North Korea’s leader, Republicans in Congress and the NFL. “We’ve invaded small countries faster than we’ve been helping American citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” one lawmaker said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is what will finish Donald Trump off, Bill Palmer, Sept. 29, 2017. When you take a look back at what finished off George W. Bush, it came down to two words: Hurricane Katrina. The storm wasn’t his fault of course. But his response was stunningly inept, and even Americans who didn’t care about politics could see it.

All along, Trump has been demonizing Hispanic people who want to be a part of the United States. Sure enough, here he is, having barely lifted a finger to help a United States territory that’s 98% Hispanic. It serves to confirm what the left has been telling the middle all along: the guy’s a racist.

Tom Price HHSThen there’s the matter of Tom Price (shown at right). Every president has to deal with a cabinet scandal somewhere along the way, because with that many cabinet members, one of them will inevitably screw something up. Trump put together – no exaggeration – the most corrupt and unsuitable cabinet of all time. Price has been caught burning up taxpayer dollars for needlessly excessive private flights. Trump’s hemming and hawing on whether to fire Price makes him look like a stammering idiot, once again belatedly confirming for the middle what the left has been saying about him all along.

These other, more traditional failures are what will soften him up to the point that his ouster for his Russia crimes will be politically possible.

Kennedy Assassination Mock Trial

lee harvey oswald mock trial ad stcl version CustomCitizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), The courtroom drama that never had a chance to occur will now be held live. Staff report, Sept. 29, 2017. Featuring world-renowned J.F.K assassination experts. Fans of history and courtroom drama will be treated to an insightful and entertaining mock trial, in which a Harris County judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys try the landmark case: State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald, using 21st century techniques in front of Harris County jurors.

Where, When: Thursday, Nov. 16 and Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Register at www.stcl.edu/oswald via South Texas College of Law Houston at Garrett-Townes Auditorium,1303 San Jacinto Street, Houston, TX

Alec Baldwin, stage, film and TV star and author Featured Dinner: Reception and dinner with Alec Baldwin, author and star of stage, screen and TV (shown at right), Thursday, Nov. 16 at The Sam Houston Hotel, 1117 Prairie Street, Houston, TX

6:00 – 8:30 p.m. Reception, dinner, presentation by Alec Baldwin (Special pricing for CAPA Members)

Who? Mock Trial Participants:

Judge: The Honorable Jay T. Karahan ’83, presiding judge, Harris County Criminal Court at Law, No. 8; and STCL Houston alumnus

Prosecuting Attorney: Gus E. Pappas, ’88, partner, Dabney & Pappas; and STCL Houston alumnus

Defense Counsel:

  • robert tanenbaumRobert K. Tanenbaum (shown in photo), trial attorney, novelist, and former mayor of Beverly Hills, Calif.; former deputy chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations
  • Lawrence P. Schnapf, Schnapf LLC; CAPA board member; New York-based environmental attorney; adjunct professor, New York Law School
  • Bill Simpich, San Francisco-based civil rights attorney; author of “State Secret: Wiretapping in Mexico City, Double Agents, and the Framing of Lee Oswald”

Expert Witnesses:

  • Robert N. McClelland, M.D., member of the team of surgeons who worked to save President John F. Kennedy’s life at Parkland Hospital in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963; professor emeritus, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., chair of CAPA; one of the nation’s leading forensic pathologists; former president, American Academy of Forensic Science and American College of Legal Medicine; member, Forensic Pathology Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassination
  • Gary Aguilar, M.D., member, CAPA board of advisors; one of only a handful of non-government physicians allowed privileged access by the Kennedy family to J.F.K.’s still-restricted medical and autopsy evidence housed at the National Archives; and ophthalmologist
  • David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., leading expert on the medical evidence in the J.F.K. assassination; Palm Desert, Calif.-based radiation oncologist
  • Donald B. Thomas, Ph.D., prolific author, including The Acoustical Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination Revisited, and with more than 100 scientific journal articles, book chapters and books
  • Clifford Spiegelman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of statistics at Texas A&M University, and author of over 100 scientific publications. Author of the award-winning paper recognized by the American Statistical Association, “Chemical and Forensic Analysis of JFK Assassination bullet lots: A second shooter possible?”

Sponsored by Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) and South Texas College of Law Houston. For more information, go to www.stcl.edu/oswald

Sept. 28

 ny times logoNew York Times, Once-Mighty Deficit Hawks Hardly Peep at Tax Cut Plan, Thomas Kaplan, Sept. 28, 2017. For years, Republican lawmakers lamented the soaring national debt, calling for spending cuts. But now, Senate Republicans and the Trump administration are pressing ahead with a plan to cut taxes by up to $1.5 trillion, and those worried about the deficit have little company.

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Washington Post, Trump sells his vague tax plan with a speech filled with inaccuracies, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Sept. 28, 2017. Here’s a sampling of inaccurate claims from the president's speech in Indiana last night — and one case in which the president appears to have adjusted his language because of our previous fact checks.

Disaster Relief

Strategic Culture Foundation, Puerto Rico Merely a Colonial Possession, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 28, 2017. It took a natural calamity, Hurricane Maria, to wake Puerto Ricans up to the fact that, as far as Donald Trump and his administration are concerned, Puerto Rico is merely a far-flung colonial possession. In 1917, Puerto Rico became a US territory and American citizenship was conferred on its residents. Last year, 97 percent of Puerto Ricans voted for US statehood. Puerto Rico’s Republican Party-affiliated Governor, Ricardo Rossello, pushed for Puerto Rican statehood, only to be treated by Trump as the equivalent to a leader of a Third World banana republic. 

Presidential Personality Portrait

Raw Story, LISTEN: Trump brags about turning away in disgust as elderly Mar-A-Lago guest lay bleeding on the floor, Travis Gettys, Sept. 28, 2017. Before he was president, Donald Trump told radio host Howard Stern that he turned away in disgust as an elderly man nearly bled to death in front of him. he future president recounted the story July 16, 2008, during one of his 35 appearances on Stern’s show, which have all recently been posted online, reported The Daily Beast.

Trump said the story took place at his Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, during a Red Cross charity ball, when a man of about 80 who “a lot of people didn’t like” was badly injured in a fall. “So what happens is, this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head and I thought he died,” Trump said. “And you know what I did? I said, ‘Oh my god, that’s disgusting, and I turned away. I couldn’t, you know — he was right in front of me. I turned away, I didn’t want to touch him.”

 He told Stern he respected nurses and others in the medical field, but he was disgusted by their work. “I’m not good for medical,” he said. “In other words, if you, like, cut your finger and there’s blood pouring out, I’m gone.”

Next Supreme Court Term

supreme court sealCenter for American Progress, Supreme Court Preview: A Momentous Term, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, Jake Faleschini, and Michele L. Jawando, Sept. 28, 2017. As rumors of major changes circulate around the Supreme Court, the stakes have never been higher. The court has only set approximately half of its cases for the term, and the schedule already includes five blockbusters. These cases span issues from political representation and discrimination to the right to trial and the ability to form strong unions; several stand to affect the fundamental rights of millions of Americans.

The nine Supreme Court justices could, for example, limit the practice of gerrymandering. At a critical juncture for LGBT rights, the justices could also state clearly, for the first time, that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is just as unconstitutional as discrimination based on one’s sex. Or the court could do none of these things. The justices could, instead, entrench gerrymandering and license people across the country to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs. They could also strip employees of a right to hold employers accountable.

The term’s biggest surprises, of course, may not come in the form of a vote, opinion, or dissent — or even a retirement. The way we talk about the Supreme Court — and the court itself — is changing. Conservatives’ unprecedented violations of democratic norms to take over the judiciary invite broader questions about reform throughout that branch.

JFK Assassination Records

JFK Countercoup, List of JFK Assassination Records Missing from the Archives, Bill Kelly, Sept. 28, 2017. What is missing from the extant history is more significant than what is in the documentary record. As researcher Malcolm Blunt has said, "It's amazing we have anything left. It's sickening, just sickening, and a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. The ARRB should have pressured these people into doing a proper search."

At the CAPA Press Conference at the National Press Club in March former ARRB chairman Judge John Tunheim asked me to send him a list of missing JFK assassination records that should be in the JFK Collection at Archives II and open to the public. This is my list, so far. Send me along any serious additions that I may have missed. 

Global News

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: By The Grace Of Israel: The Barzani Clan And Kurdish Independence, B, Sept. 28, 2017. The Kurdish region in Iraq held a "referendum" about splitting off from Iraq to form an independent state. The referendum was highly irregular and the outcome was assured. That such a referendum was held now had more to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence. The referendum was non-binding. It is now onto Barzani to declare independence or to leave the issue aside (in exchange for more money).

Sports Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Rick Pitino Is Out at Louisville Amid F.B.I. Investigation, Marc Tracy, Sept. 28, 2017 (print edition). Louisville’s Hall of Fame basketball coach, Rick Pitino, formerly of Kentucky, was removed Wednesday amid a mounting recruiting scandal. One of college basketball’s most illustrious coaching careers seemed to come to an ignominious close on Wednesday as Rick Pitino was ousted by the University of Louisville.

American Political Crisis

ny times logoFacebook logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Ad-Targeting Problem, Captured in a Literal Shade of Gray, Noam Scheiber, Sept. 28, 2017 (print edition).  Many of the social network’s ad-targeting terms are legitimate in principle but can be problematic in practice. Consider, for instance, the word “confederate.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Commissioner Still Expects N.B.A. Players to Stand for Anthem, Scott Cacciola, Sept. 28, 2017 (print edition).  The N.B.A. is known for being socially progressive, but Commissioner Adam Silver said the league’s policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem has not changed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dean Skelos’s 2015 Corruption Conviction Is Overturned, Benjamin Weiser, Sept. 26, 2017. A federal appeals panel cited the same Supreme Court decision used to vacate the conviction of Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly speaker. A federal appeals panel on Tuesday overturned the 2015 corruption convictions of Dean G. Skelos, once the powerful majority leader of the New York State Senate, and his son, Adam B. Skelos, toppling the final bookend of what had been historic, back-to-back convictions of two of Albany’s most entrenched leaders.

In ruling in favor of the Skeloses, the judges — just as another appellate panel did in July for Sheldon Silver, the former longtime Democratic speaker of the State Assembly — cited a decision last year of the United States Supreme Court that narrowed the legal definition of corruption in a case that involved Bob McDonnell, the former Republican governor of Virginia.

The convictions of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver had heralded a deathblow to the culture of corruption in Albany, sending a signal that no politician in New York was immune from the scrutiny of Preet Bharara, then the United States attorney in Manhattan.

But in the McDonnell opinion, the Supreme Court made it harder for prosecutors to prove corruption. The court ruled that only formal and concrete government actions or decisions could serve as a basis of a corruption prosecution, and not political courtesies like setting up a meeting.

WGBH-FM (Boston), Opinion: America Is In The Midst Of A Political Crisis Bigger Than Vietnam Or Watergate, Harvey Silverglate, Sept. 28, 2017. The political, cultural and legal turmoil afflicting America today – collectively I call it The Age of Trump – is the nation’s greatest crisis of self-confidence in memory. In terms of far-reaching implications, there are only two episodes that come close: the anti-war movement and general sense of rebellion that drove Lyndon B. Johnson to withdraw his candidacy for reelection in 1968, and the impeachment threat that caused Richard M. Nixon to resign in 1974, followed quickly by his pardon by his successor Gerald R. Ford. 

Trump Probe Update

Palmer Report, Opinion: Insider reveals the specific criminal charges Robert Mueller will bring against Donald Trump and his co-conspirators, Bill Palmer, Sept. 28, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still quietly working his way through the various aspects of the most complex criminal investigation in United States history. But now a Department of Justice insider has revealed the specific criminal charges that Mueller can be expected to bring against Donald Trump and his co-conspirators.

Jimmy Gurulé was an Assistant Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration, giving him specific expertise when it comes to putting together the pieces and figuring out specifically what a prosecutor like Mueller is aiming toward. Gurulé appeared on the Brian Williams show on MSNBC on Wednesday night, and he laid out the various criminal charges that he expects Mueller to bring in the Trump-Russia probe.

Sept. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, A Boondoggle Masquerading as Tax Reform, Editorial Board, Sept. 28, 2017. The administration’s plan depends on the discredited notion that tax cuts for the rich will help everyone. New York Times, Trump Tax Proposal Benefits Wealthy, Including Trump, Binyamin Appelbaum, Sept. 27, 2017. The administration’s tax plan provides large benefits for the wealthy, modest benefits for the middle class — and no direct benefit to the poor.

scott pruitt epa

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Washington Post, EPA’s Pruitt took charter, military flights that cost taxpayers more than $58,000, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 27, 2017. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, according to records given to a congressional oversight committee and obtained by the Washington Post.

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Washington Post, Interior secretary says workers are disloyal. They see his personnel moves as illegal, Darryl Fears, Sept. 27, 2017. An inspector general probe is investigating whether Ryan Zinke acted inappropriately when the department reassigned dozens of workers.

'American Made' Drug Film Seen As Whitewash of CIA, Presidents

porter goss barry sealdaniel hopsickerMadcow News, American Made Lies, Sex, & Videotape, Daniel Hopsicker, Sept. 17, 2017. Investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker (shown at right) authored the iconic expose of CIA drug-trafficking by Barry Seal, "Barry and the Boys." The book cover displays a full version of the photo showing CIA operative (and future Congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss in a covert celebratory dinner with Seal. Hopsicker also wrote "Welcome To Terrorland," a riveting expose of official and non-Muslim connections of Florida-dwelling accused 9/11 hijackers. His review of the new Tom Cruise movie on Seal begins:

It’s hard to credit anything about a movie whose ruthless Medellin Cartel Drug Lords wear powder-blue leisure suits. Still, when a “based on a true story” movie spreads egregious falsehoods about a man who will someday be of vital interest to future historians, attention must be paid.

Reports Daily Variety, “Tom Cruise (as Barry Seal) is a devil-may-care playboy in TWA uniform… bored of his domestic flight path, keeping himself amused with the odd bit of cigar smuggling and faked in-flight turbulence, when he’s approached in 1978 by the CIA.”

tom cruise barry seal american madeEverything about this statement is wrong. The big questions is: why?

Were filmmakers Tom Cruise, director Doug Liman, and screenwriter Nicholas Spanelli just being stupid or careless? Or were they acting in pursuit of a hidden — and possibly more insidious — motive?

Start here: Today Barry Seal is famous for being a CIA pilot. Full stop.

Do current Agency honchos find that fact uncomfortable?  Probably only if they were still controlling drug trafficking into the U.S., right ?

When the movie finishes tanking — it's already more than halfway there, placing 4th in Australia, just behind the comedy ‘Girl Trip,’ which is probably not an indication of sizzling box office — maybe one of them will talk.

Sex Marketeer Broke Taboos

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Washington Post, Hugh Hefner: 1926–2017, Visionary editor who created Playboy magazine dies at 91, Matt Schudel. Sept. 27, 2017. From the first issue of Playboy in 1953, Hugh Hefner sought to overturn what he considered the puritanical moral code of Middle America. His magazine was shocking at the time, but it introduced nudity and sexuality to the cultural mainstream of America — and quickly found a large and receptive

Disaster Relief

ny times logoNew York Times, In the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Maria Drowned What Irma Didn’t Destroy, Jeremy W. Peters, Sept. 27, 2017. As islanders wait for doctors, medicine, fuel and manpower to rebuild, the economic toll from the storms is only starting to come to light. Even before two Category 5 hurricanes struck the United States Virgin Islands with punishing fury this month, the notion of paradise here was already about as brittle as a sand dollar.

The local treasury had barely enough cash to keep the government funded for three days. Its debt had grown so large that Wall Street stopped lending it money. The unemployment rate was more than twice the national average.

The one-two punch of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria 14 days later was especially cruel. In many places across the three major islands of this American territory, the second storm drowned what the first couldn’t destroy, ravaging what was once one of the Caribbean’s most idyllic landscapes. The 103,000 people who live in these islands are at the end of a long supply chain of relief that depends heavily on the ports in neighboring Puerto Rico — now crippled by Maria and unable to meet the needs of its own people.audience.

Media: 'Fake News' Writer Dies

New York Times, Paul Horner, Fake News Writer Who Took Credit for Trump Victory, Dies at 38, Christina Caron, Sept. 27, 2017. Paul Horner, a writer who trolled the nation with his fabricated news stories and claimed that he was responsible for Donald J. Trump’s election victory, died last week. The cause was a suspected drug overdose, the authorities in Arizona said Wednesday. Mr. Horner, 38, was found dead in his bed in Laveen, Ariz., on Sept. 18.

Mr. Horner’s fraudulent articles could be found on Facebook, various news domains that he created, and in years past, on the fake news website National Report. Even his byline was fake. He often went by the name Jimmy Rustling, as he did on this story, in which he claimed protesters were getting paid $3,500 to disrupt Trump rallies.

Sept. 26

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puerto rico flagWashington Post, Trump declares Puerto Rico is in ‘deep trouble’ as questions mount about response to hurricane, John Wagner, Sept. 26, 2017.  In his first tweets about the storm since Wednesday, the president wrote that the U.S. territory was already suffering from “broken infrastructure,” including an old electrical grid, which he said was “devastated” by Hurricane Maria, as well as “massive debt.”

Too Much Power For Google?

ny times logoNew York Times, As Google Fights Fake News, Voices on the Margins Raise Alarm, Daisuke Wakabarayshi, Sept. 26, 2017. The editorial head of a socialist website complained that Google is censoring the internet by curbing search traffic to his publication. When David North, the editorial chairman of the World Socialist Web Site, noticed a drop in the site’s traffic in April, he initially chalked it up to news fatigue over President Trump or a shift in political consciousness.

But when he dug into the numbers, Mr. North said, he found a clearer explanation: Google had stopped redirecting search queries to the site. He discovered that the top search terms that once brought people to the World Socialist Web Site were now coming up empty. “This is not an accident,” Mr. North said. “This is some form of deliberate intervention.”

Accusations that Google has tampered with search results are not uncommon and date back to the earliest days of its search engine. But they are taking on new life amid concerns that technology behemoths are directly — or indirectly — censoring controversial subjects in their response to concerns over so-called fake news and the 2016 presidential election.

In April, Google announced an initiative called Project Owl to provide “algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content” and stamp out fake news stories from its search results. To some, that was an uncomfortable step toward Google becoming an arbiter of what is and is not a trustworthy news source.

Crime & Courts Around the Nation

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Washington Post, Millions of drivers lost their licenses for failing to pay court fees, study finds, Justin Wm. Moyer, Sept. 26, 2017 (Print edition). Forty-three states and the District suspend driver’s licenses because of unpaid fines and fees, trapping people in a “vicious court debt cycle,” according to the report.

Trump Choice Beaten Badly In Alabama Primary

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roy mooreWashington Post, Moore wins Republican Senate primary, dealing blow to GOP establishment, Michael Scherer, Sept. 26, 2017. A former state judge who believes Christian biblical morality should invalidate federal court decisions won the Alabama Republican primary Tuesday night, according to a projection by the Associated Press, sending a clear warning signal to President Trump and GOP leaders that conservative, grass-roots anger will continue to roil the party into the 2018 midterm elections.

Roy Moore, who was twice suspended from his job as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (and shown in a court photo), defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (shown below), who was appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and was backed by both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

luther strange HSMoore is now the front-runner to win the seat in a Dec. 12 general election. He will face Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

For conservative opponents of the current Republican leadership, the victory was a godsend — literally, for many — and a validation of the larger effort to replace the current leadership of the Republican Party with a more populist crowd.

Another Blow To GOP Senate Powers

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bob corkerWashington Post, Sen. Bob Corker is retiring, dealing a blow to GOP establishment, Paul Kane and Karoun Demirjian​, Sept. 26, 2017. The influential Republican from Tennessee (shown at right) announced that he will not run for reelection in 2018. Corker was once considered an ally of President Trump, but the two of them have clashed since then.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, Senate GOP won’t vote on its latest health-care bill, Juliet Eilperin, Sean Sullivan and Amy Goldstein​, Sept. 26, 2017.  This may have been the last chance congressional Republicans had to overhaul Barack Obama's health-care law as special budget rules that allowed them to proceed without Democratic support expire Friday.

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Washington Post, Trump pins blame on McCain as latest GOP health-care bill sinks, John Wagner, Sept. 26, 2017 (Print edition).  With the latest Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act collapsing, President Trump focused his ire Monday night on Sen. John McCain, distributing a video that showed the Arizona Republican on board with the mission in the past.

john mcCain o“A few of the many clips of John McCain talking about Repealing & Replacing O’Care,” Trump said in a tweet that accompanied the video. “My oh my has he changed-complete turn from years of talk!”

McCain (shown at right) said he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the bill written by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), taking issue with the hurried process leaders have used to move the measure ahead.

trey gowdyTalking Points Memo, Gowdy, Cummings Ask White House To ID Staffers Using Private Email, Caitlin MacNeal, Sept. 26, 2017. Following reports that White House aides have been using private email accounts to conduct official business, the leaders of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (shown at left) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to the White House on Monday asking that the administration identify any staffers using private email.  At least six administration officials, including Gary Cohn and Stephen Miller, have used personal email accounts for White House business, the New York Times reported

Global News

SouthFront, Kurdistan Region’s Referendum Commission To Announce Result Of Referendum Within 72 Hours, Staff report, Sept. 26, 2017.The Iraqi  Kurdistan Region’s Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (IHERC) said on Tuesday that it will announce the result of independence referendum held in the region within 72 hours.

According to reports, 282.000 ballots were counted already and 93 percent of the voters supported independence. Earlier, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said that the “Yes” vote will not mean an immediate declaration of the Kurdistan Region’s independence. Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani argued that it will start negitiations with the Iraqi Federal Government over the issue.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Arabia Overturns Ban on Women Driving, Ben Hubbard, Sept. 26, 2017. The change, which will not happen immediately, will end a longstanding policy that has become a global symbol of the repression of women in the ultraconservative kingdom. Increasing numbers of women are working in a growing number of professions, and in 2015, women were allowed to vote and to run for seats on the kingdom’s local councils.

saudi arabia flagIn a small news conference at the Saudi embassy in Washington, an exuberant Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador, said women would be able to obtain driver’s licenses without having to ask permission of their husbands, fathers or any male guardian — despite so-called “guardianship” laws that give men power over their female relatives.

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Washington Post, Russian ‘cannibal couple’ may have drugged, killed and eaten as many as 30 people, police say, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Sept. 26, 2017. Investigators believe that a Russian couple knocked their victims out with sedatives, then skinned them alive. Afterward, police say, they ate parts of their victims, froze the remains or packed them in jars filled with saline solution. City police have arrested the couple — Natalia Baksheeva and her husband, 35-year-old Dmitry Baksheev — who authorities say may be responsible for the deaths or disappearances of as many as 30 people in the city of 750,000 in the southwestern tip of Russia, about five hours from Sochi.

Sept. 25

Desperate GOP Tactics To Bribe Senators Against Obamacare?

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Washington Post, New GOP health-care bill in jeopardy as Sen. Rand Paul expresses opposition, Sean Sullivan, Paige Winfield Cunningham and Juliet Eilperin​, Sept. 25, 2017. The Kentucky Republican opposes the revised version of the Cassidy-Graham health-care bill, his spokesman said. Paul was one of two GOP senators — including John McCain — who came out against the earlier form of the legislation, citing concerns about the block granting approach at the core of the bill.

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 Washington Post, New version of GOP health-care bill will help Alaska and Maine — home of two holdout senators, Sean Sullivan, Paige Winfield Cunningham and Juliet Eilperin, Sept.  25, 207. The Republican senators at the forefront of the latest effort to undo the Affordable Care Act plan to release a revised version of their bill Monday sending more health-care dollars to the states of key holdouts, as hardening resistance from several GOP senators left their proposal on the verge of collapse.

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According to a summary obtained by The Washington Post, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) will propose giving Alaska and Maine more funding than initially offered. Those states are represented by Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska, shown at left) and Susan Collins (Maine), who have expressed concerns about the bill but have yet to say how they would vote.

 The Cassidy-Graham legislation would overhaul the ACA by lumping together the current law’s spending on insurance subsidies and expanded Medicaid and redistributing it to states in the form of block grants. Alaska would get 3 percent more funding between 2020 and 2026 than under current law, and Maine would get 43 percent more funding during that time period, according to a summary obtained by The Post.

Disaster In U.S-Governed Puerto Rico

ny times logoNew York Times, Puerto Rico Is American. We Can’t Ignore It Now, Editorial Board, Sept. 24, 2017 Print edition). A century after the United States extended qualified citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico, that link has never been more vital to the island commonwealth, as it reels from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico cannot vote for president and has no voting representatives in Congress. But its citizens are entitled to the same federal emergency funds and resources that Washington has been funneling to the far more politically powerful and economically resilient states of Texas and Florida in their hurricane miseries.

More Trump Football Fallout

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Washington Post, In showings of protest and solidarity, NFL teams respond to Trump’s criticisms, Liz Clarke and Abby Phillip, Sept. 25, 2017.  Some stood. Some kneeled. Some remained in the locker room, choosing to speak through their absence from the NFL’s pregame ceremonies, in which the American flag is displayed and the national anthem sung.

 But from London to Los Angeles, virtually all NFL players on the sidelines before kickoff of Sunday’s slate of 14 games locked arms with each other in response to President Trump’s three-day campaign demanding that team owners “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the national anthem and calling on fans to boycott games if the form of protest continued.

The silent rebuke to the president, determined independently by each of the 28 NFL teams in action Sunday, represented an unprecedented collective action and show of solidarity among players who battle against one another 16 weeks, some more, each season.

All but two of the NFL’s 32 team owners and CEOs issued statements Saturday night and through Sunday in response to Trump’s crusade against protesting NFL players, which began in earnest during a rally Friday night in Alabama. After making a thinly veiled allusion to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked a national debate by taking a knee before August 2016  preseason games to protest police violence against minorities, Trump called on NFL coaches to get the “son of a bitch” players off the field if they continued to kneel. The president repeated his call with no less intensity on Twitter on Saturday and Sunday morning.

On Monday, Trump another shot at league. In a series of tweets, Trump derided the players who took a knee and said it displayed scorn for “our Country, Flag and National Anthem.” NFL must respect this!” he wrote.  “Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total),” Trump wrote in a separate tweet. “These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!”

tom brady o CustomHuffington Post, Tom Brady Breaks With Trump Over 'Divisive' NFL Comments, Hayley Miller, Sept. 25, 2017. Tom Brady (shown in a team photo) joined dozens of other NFL players Monday by speaking out against President Donald Trump’s “divisive” criticism of players who choose to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and systemic racism.

The New England Patriots quarterback, who Trump has described as a “good friend,” said he “certainly” disagrees with the president’s recent comments, in which he called for NFL team owners to fire protesting players during a Friday rally in Alabama. “I thought it was just divisive,” Brady said during an interview with Boston radio WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” on Monday.

National Law Journal, Trump Wants NFL Players Fired. It's Not That Simple, Erin Mulvaney, Sept, 25, 2017 (Subscription required).  Employment attorneys say terminating a professional football player would come with a host of challenges.

Inside Washington

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Facebook logoWashington Post, Obama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook, Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, Sept. 25, 2017 (print edition). After Zuckerberg dismissed fake news on Facebook as a factor in the election, Obama tried to send a wake-up call, Interviews with those involved in the government’s investigation and the company’s response provide the first details of how Facebook uncovered the Russian operation and searched for ways to limit the damage.

Global News: U.S. v. Russia Battlefield?

Russia Insider, Opinion: US  Russian Clash in Syria Changes the Game, Tom Luongo, Sept. 25, 2017. World War III just became a hot war with the sides clearly drawn and hostilities now moving up a notch. The sides are now very clear. They were always clear to the astute.  They are now fully out in the open with this week’s events.

American Flag

It is the U.S./Israel/Saudi Arabia versus Russia/China/Iran with the EU and Turkey trying to change sides while still receiving NATO money. On Tuesday, an attack on a Russian military police position by Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) was repulsed by Russian Spetznaz and close air support forces.

 russian flagWith the Neocons in charge of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, the only solution for Russia is a total collapse of the U.S. presence in Syria. And that places Turkish President Erdogan in the critical position. Because he will cast the deciding vote on what happens.  And the odds are that he will betray his NATO ally and squeeze the U.S./SDF forces out of the region.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria – U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia, B, Sept. 25, 2017. Yesterday three high-ranking Russian officers were killed in an "ISIS attack" in eastern-Syrian. It is likely that they were killed by U.S. special forces or insurgents under U.S. special forces control. The incident will be understood as a declaration of war. The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East wants the oil fields in east-Syria under control of its proxy forces to set up and control a U.S. aligned Kurdish mini-state in the area. The Syrian government, allied with Russia, needs the revenues of the oil fields to rebuild the country.

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State. The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern-Syria. U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made.

For three years ISIS had besieged Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor city and its airport. It had not once managed to successfully attack the Syrian headquarter or to kill high ranking officers. Now, as U.S. proxy forces "advised" by U.S. special forces, have taken position north of Deir Ezzor, "ISIS" suddenly has the intelligence data and precision mortar capabilities to kill a bunch of visiting Russian officers?

That is not plausible. No one in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran or Moscow will believe that. The Russian military, as usual, reacts calmly and officially attributes the attack to ISIS. Doing so avoids pressure to immediately react to the attack. (The U.S. will falsely interpret this as a face-saving Russian retreat.)

syria flagNominally the U.S. and Russia are both in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Russian troops are legitimately there, having been invited by the Syrian government. The U.S. forces have no legal justification for their presence.

So far open hostilities between the two sides had been avoided. But as the U.S. now obviously sets out to split Syria apart, openly cooperates with terrorists, and does not even refrain from killing Russian officers, the gloves will have to come off.

ny times logoNew York Times, Syrian War Drags On, but Assad’s Future Looks Secure, Ben Hubbard, Sept. 25, 2017.  al-Assad has not declared victory but no one is left who could oust him, and regional powers increasingly operate as though he is here to stay. Regional powers, foreign officials and Syrians themselves are increasingly operating as if he will rule for years to come, albeit over a greatly reduced country. Turkish forces allied with local rebels hold territory in the north, and the United States is working with Kurdish and Arab fighters against the Islamic State in the east.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iraqi Kurds Vote on Independence, Despite Opposition, David Zucchino, Sept. 25, 2017. Many have long yearned for nationhood. But Iraq considers the vote illegal, and the United States, Iran and Turkey are also opposed.

Global News: German Leader Re-Elected

Angela Merkel

ny times logoGerman FlagNew York Times, Merkel, Reluctant Leader, ‘Has Gotten the Taste’ for Power, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 25, 2017.  Elected to a fourth term as chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel (shown in a file photo above) wants to put the European Union, post-Brexit and in the age of Trump, on a stable, vigorous path.

Global News: Reasons For North Korean Actions

North Korean flag

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Washington Post, North Korean envoy calls Trump’s rhetoric ‘a declaration of war,’ threatens to shoot down U.S. bombers, Carol Morello​, Sept. 25, 2017. In another ratcheting up of tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, North Korea’s foreign minister asserted that the pariah state has the right to defend itself by shooting down U.S. planes, even if they are not in the country’s airspace.

kim jong un uniformedStrategic Culture Foundation, Trump Fails to Understand North Korea Existential Fears, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 25, 2017. Donald Trump’s bombastic rhetoric aimed at North Korea is evidence that neither he nor his administration grasp the historic paranoia of the North Korean government. The fear in Pyongyang that North Korea will become a ceded territory in a big power agreement has been a factor since the days of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. This existential threat also formed the policies of Kim Il Sung’s successors – his son Kim Jong Il and his grandson, the present leader, Kim Jong Un.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who knows North Korea well, has called for a toning down of the rhetoric from the U.S. side. Carter also refers to North Korea by its formal name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK. In August of this year, Carter released a statement on U.S.-DPRK relations:

A permanent peace treaty with the United States would tamp down tensions. Currently, the United States and South Korea remain in a technical state of war with the DPRK.

The current armistice is the result of a ceasefire agreed upon between the United States/South Korea/United Nations and the DPRK in 1953. A technical state of war has existed between the parties. Therefore, the DPRK has feared that it will be targeted in a pre-emptive strike by the United States and Republic of Korea.

Every joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise conducted near North Korean territory is feared by Pyongyang as a pretext for such a pre-emptive attack.

donald trump melania trump piano pose

The Trumps, shown in a pre-presidential Vanity Fair profile

Newsweek, Trump Says He Groped Melania in Public, Ivanka Looks Down on Him, in Newly Released Recordings, Nina Burleigh, Sept. 25, 2015. Donald Trump thinks Ivanka “looks down on me,” concedes he has groped Melania in public, knows his compulsive handwashing “could be a psychological problem” and once suggested deploying sleeping gas on planes to deter terrorists, according to a new archive of all the conversations he had on air with The Howard Stern Show.

Those comments, along with various eyebrow-raising but predictable vulgarities, can be found in a new, online archive of Trump’s 15 hours of radio banter with the shock jock. In them, he discusses the relative hotness of his wives (and almost every other female celebrity of the moment) and his feelings about his daughter Ivanka, while chortling with Stern’s crew as they joked about who was more “gay” and whether getting vomited on was more gross than eating food that had been on someone’s anus.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Stern refused to re-air any of his conversations with the Republican nominee. “I feel Donald Trump did the show in an effort to be entertaining and have fun with us, and I feel like it would be a betrayal to any of our guests if I sat there and played them now where people are attacking him,” Stern said on his SiriusXM show.

Newsweek exclusively obtained the full audio and transcripts of all 15 hours of Trump talking to Stern, from 1993 to August 25, 2015. Taken together, the Stern interviews are a rich, Freudian case study, a gold mine for anyone trying to understand the president of the United States. The real estate magnate usually called in when he had something to hawk—a book, a prizefight, his TV show—but almost always stayed around to banter with Stern, whose preoccupation with sex and unctuous questioning style led the real estate magnate to free-associate on everything from his parents, children and upbringing to money, enemies, politics and, of course, breasts, enhanced or not. 

An anonymous person earlier this month sent the audio files of 35 full and unique Trump-Stern interviews by Dropbox to the website Factba.se. The site developers had made a public request for Stern-Trump interview audio files on various Stern fan sites and on Reddit earlier this year. The site allowed Newsweek to search the files before making them available to the public for the first time on Monday.

Trump has talked more to Stern than to any other single journalist or media personality, including Joe Scarborough, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews, Larry King and Don Imus. The voluminous archive contains more than 104,357 words Trump uttered on The Howard Stern Show — a number which is, by the site’s calculations, 21 percent longer than The Art of the Deal, Trump’s first bestseller, which weighed in at 86,575 words.

Crime and Courts

Anthony WeinerNew York Post, Anthony Weiner gets hard time, Kaja Whitehouse, Sept. 25, 2017. It’s hard time for Anthony Weiner.The disgraced ex-congressman broke down crying as he was sentenced to 21 months in prison Monday for convincing a high school student to undress and touch herself via Skype in 2016.

After the courtroom cleared, Weiner sat crying in his chair with his lawyers patting him on the back. His mom also sat crying on the bench behind him, sitting next to Weiner’s brother Jason and Weiner’s dad. The serial sexter’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Huma Abedin, was nowhere to be seen.

anthony weiner nynews sentencing CustomIn addition to his prison stint, Weiner was sentenced to pay a $10,000 fine for his crime, participate in sex offender outpatient treatment and spend three years on supervised release once his sentence is up. He will have to surrender to his designated facility by Nov. 6 — his lawyer put in a request for Schuylkill Federal Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, or another low-security prison near New York.

Weiner, 53, had faced as much as 10 years in the slammer after pleading guilty in May to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor. The feds said Weiner, a former congressman from Brooklyn, began a two-month sexting session with the North Carolina teen shortly after she messaged him on Twitter in January 2016.

Sept. 24

Trump Team Sabotage Against Obamacare Sign Ups?

Truthout, Obamacare Website to Be Shut Down for Portion of Most Weekends During Open Enrollment, Phil Galewitz (Kaiser Health News), Sept. 24, 2017. The Trump administration plans to shut down the federal health insurance exchange for 12 hours during all but one Sunday in the upcoming open enrollment season. The shutdown will occur from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET on every Sunday except Dec. 10.

 The Department of Health and Human Services will also shut down the federal exchange --  healthcare.gov  -- overnight on the first day of open enrollment, Nov. 1. More than three dozen states use that exchange for their marketplaces.

HHS officials disclosed this information Friday during a webinar with community groups that help people enroll. The Trump administration has come under attack from critics who say that it is intentionally undermining the Affordable Care Act, through regulatory actions. It shortened the enrollment period, withdrew money for advertising and cut the budget for navigator groups, which help people shop for plans.

And now HHS is closing the site for a substantial portion of each weekend -- for maintenance, officials said. That is the same time that many working patients -- the prime target group for ACA insurance -- could be shopping for their insurance, critics noted.

"The Department of Health & Human Services is actively trying to prevent people from signing up for healthcare coverage," Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted. "This is outrageous." "Argh" was the reaction of Shelli Quenga, program director at the Palmetto Project in South Carolina, a nonprofit group that received about $1 million to help with outreach and enrollment in the past 12 months. This month, HHS cut her budget in half for this year's open enrollment.

Open enrollment season will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, less than half the time people have had to sign up during the first four years of the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.

More than 12 million people enrolled on the state and federal marketplaces for 2017 coverage, including more than 9 million on the federal exchange. Some customers give up coverage over the course of the year.

Advocates were already nervous that fewer people would sign up during the shortened period this time around. "I could see this really impacting the ability of people to complete an application sign-up in a single sitting, which is so important," said Jason Stevenson, spokesman for the Utah Health Policy Project, an Obamacare navigator group. He noted that 10 p.m. Mountain Time is often a relatively popular time for people to enroll online.

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Washington Post, Kushner used private email account for White House business, Carol D. Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 24, 2017.  President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner (shown at right) used a private email account to conduct official business, his lawyer said. He did so through his first nine months in government, even as the president continued to hammer Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email account for government business.

Trump Incites Race, Sports Protests

djt economist cover aug 19 2017

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Washington Post, In displays of protest and solidarity, NFL teams offer a rebuke to Trump, Liz Clarke and Abby Phillip​, Sept. 24, 2017. In response to President Trump’s three-day crusade to “fire or suspend” players who kneel to protest police violence, athletes and team officials across the NFL demonstrated by locking arms on the sidelines — some taking a knee during the national anthem. Many owners issued statements defending the rights of players, and all Americans, to express themselves on matters they’re passionate about.

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Washington Post, In first NFL game since Trump remarks, Jaguars owner links arms with players taking knee during anthem, Staff report, Sept. 24, 2017. Many Baltimore and Jacksonville players in London demonstrated together before kickoff. Shahid Khan, who joined his players in the demonstration on a world stage, is believed to be the first NFL team owner to participate in an anthem protest. All the players appeared to have remained standing for the British anthem.

shad khan kneel londonTMZ Sports, Around 20 NFL players kneeled in the most intense protest yet ... a protest clearly triggered by Donald Trump, Staff report, Sept. 24, 2017.  Players from both the Ravens and the Jaguars took a knee before their game in London as the National Anthem played. Ray Lewis cried as he took a knee.

What's especially interesting ... Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who donated $1 million to Trump's campaign, locked arms with 2 players.  It couldn't be clearer ... Donald Trump -- who called for the firing of the "son's of bitches who take a knee" ---  has actually solidified the movement to kneel in protest. President Donald Trump official

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump demands NFL teams ‘fire or suspend’ players or risk fan boycott, Abby Phillip, Sept. 24, 2017. The president continued his three-day crusade by renewing his demand for action against players who kneel during the national anthem in an effort to protest police violence against minorities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: NFL shows restraint in the face of vulgarity — and gets it right, Sally Jenkins, Sept. 24, 2017 (print edition). Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the league are getting it right by responding to the president’s baiting comments with civility.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Trump roared at a rally in Alabama on Friday night. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.’ And that owner . . . they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”  

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Washington Post, White House expands travel ban, restricting visitors from 8 countries, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 24, 2017. The new travel order, which is the third version of the controversial ban offered by the Trump administration, continues restrictions on foreign nationals seeking visas from Iran, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Syria, all Muslim-majority countries. But it also extends the restrictions to three new nations: Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. Sudan, which had been part of the original travel ban, is not part of the new order announced Sunday.

Crime and Courts: Around the Nation

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Washington Post, Usher stops masked gunman’s rampage at Nashville-area church, Brandon Gee and Tim Craig, Sept. 24, 2017. Police said the 25-year-old suspect killed a woman before he was confronted and subdued by a church usher who retrieved his own weapon from his car. Six people wounded in the attack ranged in age from 60 to 83, police said.​

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Washington Post, The civil rights and Vietnam protests changed America. Today, they might be illegal, Sept. 24, 2017.  Margaret Sullivan, What’s the state of free speech in America? Sanford Ungar, who teaches about it at Harvard and Georgetown, has a simple, depressing answer. “It’s a mess,” he says.

It’s not just the problems on college campuses where high-profile speakers haven’t been allowed to talk. It’s not just what happened in Charlottesville, where a counterprotester was run over and killed. It’s not just President Trump’s insistent call for the firings or suspensions of NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence.

An insidious problem also is developing in dozens of states where legislatures are considering — and sometimes approving — new laws that restrict free speech.

“They are criminalizing things that are pretty routine,” Ungar told me. “Much of the activism of the Vietnam and civil rights era would be completely illegal” under the new laws.

seymour hersh hsWorld With War Conference, #NoWar2017, Day One, host David Swanson (shown above), Sept. 24, 2015 (filmed Sept. 22) (2:32 hours). The first night include the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, with this year's recipient Seymour Hersh. He is shown in a file photo. [Hersh accepted his award in private, which was congruent with his independent streak, sometimes acerbic manner, and desire to avoid Washington traditions that might smack of back-slapping. Counterpunch in July reported on one of his most recent scoops in The Useful Idiots Who Undermine Dissent on Syria.]

Those introducing him and commenting on the state of journalism regarding national security issues included Edward Snowden (by video at 1:20:45 mark, after and Daniel Ellsberg (at 1:32:06) both by video and after introductions by emcee Annie Mashom, a former 1990s whistleblower against corruption in Great Britain's MI 5 security service, where she worked for six years. She also represented Sam Adams Associates, named for a 1960s CIA officer and comprised of former intelligence officers in Western nations.

Its representatives included Ray McGovern (a former CIA officer who wrote a column Seymour Hersh Honored for Integrity and John Kyriakou. Other speakers includded (at the video's beginning) 2016 Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein and war protester Tim DeChristopher. Music was by Bryan Cahall.

The announcement said: Sam Adams Associates, who selected Hersh last month from a truly impressive roster of truth-tellers, are enthusiastic at the prospect of Sy joining the ranks of the 15 earlier awardees – from Coleen Rowley (2002) to John Kiriakou (2016). Included among those in between are other patriots: like Katharine Gun, U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray, Col. Larry Wilkerson, Julian Assange, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Fingar, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Bill Binney. For details and other material on whistleblowing, visit Sam Adams Award.

seymour hersh sam adams award sept 22 17 consortium newsRelated News: Consortium News, Hersh Receives Adams Award for Integrity, Staff report, Sept. 24, 2017. Journalist Seymour Hersh, whose career includes exposing U.S. intelligence abuses, received an award for integrity from an organization of former U.S. and Western intelligence officials who share Hersh’s ethical concerns about such abuses.

The trademark “Oscar” for Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) was presented to longtime investigative journalist Seymour Hersh at a dinner in Washington on Sept. 22 (as shown by the adjoining photo). The symbolic award is a candle sitting atop the traditional corner-brightener candlestick holder.

SAAII confers its annual award on a member of the intelligence profession or related field who exemplifies the courage, persistence and devotion to truth of Sam Adams, a CIA analyst on Vietnam who exposed lies of the generals in Saigon and was then silenced.

Adams, a descendant of the famed Adams family of the American Revolution, died prematurely at age 55 in 1988, regretting that he had not gone public with his information earlier to stop the slaughter in Vietnam. Details.

Hersh, now 80, first came to national prominence in 1969 when he helped expose the massacre of Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai. More recently, Hersh revealed the U.S. military’s torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 and, in 2014, debunked Western propaganda that sought to justify a major U.S. military attack on Syria by pinning a sarin-gas attack on the government.

Global News: Iraq

Consortium News, Vote by Iraqi Kurds Adds to Tensions, Joe Lauria, Sept. 24, 2017. The Kurds, a long-suffering ethnic group in the Mideast, have long sought an independent state – and Iraqi Kurdish areas will vote in a referendum that is adding to the region’s tensions, as Joe Lauria reports from Erbil, Iraq.

Fireworks are already exploding here in Erbil as Iraqi Kurds rally in football stadiums and drive down thoroughfares, horns blaring and Kurdish flags flying, as though they are already a sovereign state as they gear up for an independence referendum from Iraq on Monday that is setting off political fireworks in the region.

Sept. 23

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Washington Post, Trump agitates sports world with fiery comments about the NFL and the NBA’s Stephen Curry, Adam Kilgore​, Sept, 23, 2017. Within roughly 12 hours starting Friday, the president set the stage for potential mass protests Sunday along NFL sidelines by calling for league owners to fire any player who “disrespects our flag.”

Trump also disinvited Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry from a White House visit. Curry is shown above.

LeBron Jame and Donald Trump (file photos)Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, shown in file photos with Trump, was one of the first NBA players to weigh in. James tweeted to Trump: “U bum. ... Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!"

World Respect

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump Squanders the World’s Trust, Editorial Board, Sept. 23, 2017 (print edition).At a crucial moment, Donald Trump is forcing the world to confront core questions it really shouldn’t have to ask: Can he be trusted? And, more saliently, can America be trusted? His threats to jettison the Iran nuclear deal are undermining America’s credibility as a negotiating partner and weakening America’s ability to lead the free world as it has for 70 years.

Syria War Victory Within Sight?

Associated Press via Washington Post, Syria says victory is in sight over terrorists, Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz, Sept. 23, 2017.  Syria’s foreign minister told world leaders Saturday that his country is “marching steadily” toward the goal of rooting out terrorism — and “victory is now within reach.”

Walid Al-Moualem pointed to “the liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra,” the end to the siege of Deir el-Zour by the Islamic State extremist group, “and the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria” by the Syrian army and its supporters and allies, including Russia and Iran.

Russia’s military said about two weeks ago that Syrian troops have liberated about 85 percent of the war-torn country’s territory from militants, a major turn-around two years after Moscow intervened to lend a hand to its embattled long-time ally.

Inside DC Politics

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Washington Post, Trump went to rally Alabama voters but vented for nearly 90 minutes instead, Jenna Johnson, Sept, 23, 2017.  Before a cheering crowd at a campaign event for Sen. Luther Strange, the president cursed, mocked the leader of North Korea, promised to build a new “see-through wall” on the southern border, called allegations of Russian interference in the election a “hoax” and repeatedly relived the 2016 campaign.

Strange’s campaign organized the rally and corralled reporters in a pen far from the thousands of rally-goers — many of whom said in interviews outside the arena that they were there to see the president and planned to vote for Moore on Tuesday, not Strange. Four Moore supporters stationed outside with campaign signs were absolutely giddy that so many passersby told them that they planned to vote for Moore.

The president then stepped away from the lectern to act out how his supporters would have handed over their rifles to Democrat Hillary Clinton, who never called for rounding up all of the rifles in the country. Trump smirked and shrugged as the crowd started to chant: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” A small group of young men sitting close to the stage, dressed in blazers and red campaign hats, kept the beat by pumping their fists into the air.

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Washington Post, Everything is on the line for McConnell come Tuesday, Paul Kane, Sept, 23, 2017. With the apparent collapse of the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans face another giant test as Alabama votes next week on a successor to Jeff Sessions.

Sept. 22

john mcCain o Roll Call, McCain a ‘No’ on Latest Senate Health Care Bill, Niels Lesniewski,  Sept. 22, 2017. Arizona Republican (at right) says there is not enough time for debate. Arizona Sen. John McCain said Friday that given the truncated timeline, he cannot vote for the health care repeal proposal floated by fellow Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana next week.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it,” McCain said. “Without a full [Congressional Budget Office] score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”

McCain’s announced opposition makes it unlikely, if not impossible, that Republicans will be able to muster the 50 votes needed to get a bill through the Senate. McCain was the deciding vote that doomed the previous effort. And with Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine also considered opposed to the proposal it appears unlikely Republicans will reach the 50 votes needed to pass it with Vice President Mike Pence’s vote.

 More On Health Care

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Washington Post, 31 states could lose federal health funds, administration analysis concludes, Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 22, 2017. The internal analysis found big winners but equally big losers under the GOP’s latest effort to abolish much of the Affordable Care Act. Alaska would face a 38 percent cut in 2026, while Mississippi and Kansas would see federal health funding more than triple and double. The method used by federal officials to predict the bill’s effects differs from another major analysis released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which concluded that 35 states would lose $160 billion under the bill.

Justice System

richard posner headshot wABA Journal, Is Posner's 'baffling' book an ethics breach? Chief judge objects to release of internal memos, Debra Cassens Weiss, Sept. 21, 2017. Retired Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals apparently ruffled colleagues’ feathers and raised ethics questions when he released internal materials in a new book on the treatment of pro se litigators. Posner (shown in a file photo) wrote in the preface that his conflict with 7th Circuit judges is over and “let there be no hard feelings,” Law360 reports. But hard feelings apparently remain; Posner tells Law360 he was disinvited to a 7th Circuit dinner to follow a meeting next Tuesday on the staff attorney program.

The staff attorneys evaluate appeals by pro se litigants and make recommendations in their cases. Posner has said he wanted to give pro se litigants a better shake by reviewing the staff attorney memos before they were circulated to judges. He resigned after being rebuffed. Posner included bench memoranda, draft opinions and internal emails in the book, called Reforming the Federal Judiciary: My Former Court Needs to Overhaul Its Staff Attorney Program and Begin Televising Its Oral Arguments.

Chief Judge Diane Wood received an advance copy of the book and contacted a Judicial Conference’s conduct committee about the ethics of the releasing internal communications, according to the Law360 report. The committee believed release of confidential internal materials would be an ethics violation, Wood told judges in an email that Posner also published.

A review of the book by the CA3blog says Posner is “on to something big” in his focus on pro se treatment, but the book is “batshit crazy” for its “baffling, disjointed blow-by-blow” of Posner’s battles with Wood, who becomes “the quite-unintentional hero of the tale.” Posner “has self-published everything — memos and drafts by staff counsel peppered with his acid edits, emails between the judges, the whole trainwreck,” the blog says. He also revealed the initial panel vote in an undecided appeal that he identifies by name.

Sept. 21

World Crises

North Korean flag

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Washington Post, North Korean leader responds to Trump: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,’ David Nakamura and Anne Gearan, Sept. 21, 2017. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacted angrily to President Trump's speech at the United Nations General Assembly, calling it "unprecedented rude nonsense." The North Korean leader said he will make the U.S. president "pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying" North Korea.

"I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue," Kim said in a statement released by the state Korean Central News Agency, which also published a photo of the North Korean leader sitting at his desk. "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."

President Trump on Thursday announced new financial sanctions targeting North Korea as his administration seeks to build international support for more aggressively confronting the rogue nation, whose escalating nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have reached what U.S. officials consider a crisis point.

American Flag

Russia Insider, US Secret Services' Tried to Nab 29 Russian Troops in Syria ... and Got Their Butts Kicked - Russian Military, Justin Huebner, Sept. 21, 2017. It’s a real war out there … and Russians and Americans are practically in combat Now this is something you won't see on NBC nightly news. The Russian military spokesman in this briefing, General Sergei Rudskoi, in a matter-of-fact deadpan, explains that 'US Secret Services’, and their Al Qaeda proxies, had a very, very bad day yesterday.

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Washington Post, Russia threatens retaliatory strikes against U.S. troops and their allies in Syria, David Filipov and Liz Sly, Sept. 21, 2017. Russia on Thursday raised the threat of a direct confrontation with U.S. forces in Syria, saying that the Russian military would target areas occupied by American units and U.S.-backed militia if Moscow’s troops come under fire.

The warning came amid rising tensions in the Syrian desert between the United States and its Kurdish and Arab allies on the one hand, and Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias on the other as both converge on Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.

Russian military spokesman Maj. General Igor Konashenkov said the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, had twice in recent days shelled Syrian government positions outside Deir el-Zour, a strategic city in the region.

TASS, Kremlin shares Defense Ministry's stance on US role in militants’ attack in Syria, staff report, Sept. 21, 2017. According to the Russian military brass, one of the militants’ main aims was to seize a Russian military police unit, deployed at an observation post to control the situation in the de-escalation zone. The Kremlin agrees with the assessment of the Russian Defense Ministry that the United States had a role of initiating the militants’ attack in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Russian President Vladimir Putin was immediately informed about this incident, Peskov said.

On Wednesday, the chief of the main operations department of Russia’s General Staff, Sergey Rudskoy, said gunmen of Jabhat al-Nusra (terror group, outlawed in Russia) launched a large-scale offensive against Syrian troops in the Idlib de-escalation zone on Tuesday. The offensive was initiated by American intelligence services to stop a successful advance of government troops east of Deir ez-Zor and was repelled.

More On Trump At United Nations

djt united nations sept 19 2017 no credit un CustomStrategic Culture Foundation, Trump’s Was One of the Most Bizarre UN Speeches in History, Wayne Madsen (Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist), Sept. 21, 2017. The United Nations General Assembly’s annual plenary session has heard a fair share of bizarre speeches by world leaders in the 72-year history of the world organization. U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech on September 19, while intemperate and undiplomatic, was not the only rancorous diatribe or the most peculiar oration ever heard within the hall of nations (shown above).

Trump referred to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) head of state Kim Jong Un as “rocket man” and a person on a “suicide mission” who, along with his nation, would be “totally destroyed” by the United States if the North attacked the United States or its allies.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with Melania Trump at Trump United Nations speech Sept. 19, 2017

Trump’s comments resulted in stone-faced silence from the other world leaders and diplomats gathered inside the General Assembly. At one point in time during Trump’s speech, his White House chief of staff, retired General John Kelly (shown at right), was seen burying his face into his hand. Although most of Trump’s venom was directed against North Korea, he also castigated Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela.

The baring of Trump’s fangs toward the five countries is in keeping with the neo-conservative foreign policy drift of his administration. Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, in New York for the General Assembly session, succinctly characterized Trump’s speech as “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric.” The only world leader who beamed during Trump’s speech was Trump’s ideological doppelganger, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Trump, who has made no secret of his racial preference for white Europeans, received no applause from an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly delegates, most of whom were from the non-white countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific.

The day following Trump’s UN speech, he embarrassingly told a luncheon of African leaders, “I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.” Those Trump “friends” include expatriate billionaire oligarchs living in Israel, Britain, and other countries who are viciously exploiting Africa’s natural resources, including diamonds, gold, platinum, oil, and rare earth minerals. Some of these brigands who are robbing Africa blind are business associates of Trump son-in-law Kushner and his family.

 

walter jones oAlternet, Two Top Republicans to Call for Full JFK Disclosure, Jefferson Morley, Sept. 22, 2017. "The American people are sick and tired of not being given the truth." Two senior Capitol Hill Republicans plan to introduce a congressional resolution calling for full disclosure of U.S. government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C) (shown at right) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) will introduce their JFK resolution before the end of the month, according to Jones.

“I want to make sure that the information that is owed the American people is made available,” the veteran North Carolina conservative said in an exclusive interview with AlterNet. “The American people are sick and tired of not being given the truth. “

chuck grassley officialThe JFK Records Act of 1992 mandated full disclosure of all government records related to the assassination within 25 years. Some four million pages of records were released in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Another 100,000 pages of assassination-related material from a dozen government agencies must be made public by the statutory deadline of Oct. 26, 2017.

“We going to take a very positive approach and thank the agencies that have the information and are making it public,” Jones said. “At the same time we want to put some pressure on the agencies to release all the information they have.”

The CIA declined to say if it plans to seek postponement of the release of the Agency’s remaining JFK records.

The unreleased records include CIA files on two senior officers involved in assassinations and four Watergate burglars, as well as the secret congressional testimony of numerous JFK witnesses.

“I hope they will not request any postponement,” Jones said. “We’re talking about something that happened 54 years ago.”

While JFK scholars and journalists have called on Trump to "give us the full story of the JFK assassination," Jones and Grassley are the first elected officials to lend their clout to the cause. You can access the JFK records at the National Archives. At the Black Vault, a superior interface makes the new documents easy to search. The most complete online source for JFK files and information is found at the Mary Ferrell Foundation.

Investigations Of Trump Team

ny times logoNew York Times, Big New York Law Firm Faces Inquiry on Manafort Work, Kenneth P. Vogel and Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 21, 2017. The Justice Department is asking Skadden, a prominent New York-based firm, about a report it prepared for Paul J. Manafort that was used by allies of the Russian-backed former president.

Five years ago, Paul Manafort arranged for a prominent New York-based law firm to draft a report that was used by allies of his client, Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, to justify the jailing of a political rival. And now the report is coming back to haunt it.

The Justice Department, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, recently asked the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, for information and documents related to its work on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych’s government, which crumbled after he fled to Russia under pressure.

The request comes at a time when Mr. Manafort, his work for Mr. Yanukovych’s party and for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs as well as the handling of payments for that work have become focal points in the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and connections between Russia, Mr. Trump and his associates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook to Turn Over Russia-Linked Ads to Congress, Scott Shane and Mike Isaac, Sept. 21, 2017. Facebook said that it was submitting 3,000 ads to congressional committees investigating election interference. The announcement came after the company spent two weeks on the defensive amid calls for greater transparency.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sean Spicer melts down after he comes front and center in Trump-Russia coverup, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2017. Sean Spicer was willing to make fun of himself in public during the Emmys over the weekend, but behind the scenes it’s a very different story. It’s been revealed that he took copious notes during his entire time in the Donald Trump administration, as per his career long habit, and that his notes are coming front and center in the Trump-Russia scandal. Amid that revelation, Spicer flipped out on one of his longtime acquaintances.

Disaster Follow-ups

ny times logoNew York Times, In Puerto Rico, the Hurricane ‘Destroyed Us,’ staff report, Sept. 21, 2017. Puerto Ricans are facing the crushing devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria — splintered homes, uprooted trees and floodwaters coursing through streets. Puerto Rico remained in the throes of chaos and devastation Thursday as the remnants of Hurricane Maria continued to dump rain — up to three feet in some areas — on the island.

The strikingly powerful storm had rendered an estimated 3.4 million people without power, and with the territory’s energy grid all but destroyed, Governor Ricardo Rosselló predicted a long period of recovery. Anxious relatives in the mainland United States and elsewhere took to social media in an effort to find news of their loved ones.

Puerto Rico faces numerous obstacles as it begins to emerge from the storm: the weight of an extended debt and bankruptcy crisis; a recovery process begun after Irma, which killed at least three people and left nearly 70 percent of households without power; the difficulty of getting to an island far from the mainland; and the strain on relief efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other groups already spread thin in the wake of several recent storms.

Sept. 20

New Special Counsel Pressure On Manafort, Trump

Paul Manafort

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Washington Post, Manafort offered ‘private briefings’ on 2016 race to Putin ally, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous, Sept. 20, 2017. Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination, his campaign chairman (shown above) made the offer in an email, according to people familiar with the discussions. The emails are among tens of thousands of documents given to officials probing whether Trump associates worked with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kurds Hire Trump’s Ex-Adviser to Push Independence Vote, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jo Becker, Sept. 20, 2017. Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work is under investigation. Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.

The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.

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FBI logoWashington Post, Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 20, 2017. The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering everything from the president’s private discussions about firing his FBI director to his White House’s handling of a warning that President Trump’s then-national security adviser was under investigation, according to two people briefed on the requests.

Iran Threatens Nuclear Deal Collapse

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Washington Post, Iranian president says 2015 nuclear deal will ‘collapse’ if Trump pulls the U.S. out, Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, Sept. 20, 2017. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said President Trump gave an “ignorant, absurd and hateful” speech at the United Nations a day earlier and vowed Iran would not be the first to walk away from the historic 2015 nuclear deal.​

Hurricane Devastates Puerto Rico

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Washington Post, ‘We will find our island destroyed’: Maria leaves Puerto Rico powerless, Samantha Schmidt and Sandhya Somashekhar​, Sept. 20, 2017. The most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years filled homes with water and knocked out power to the entire population. “The information we have received is not encouraging,” said Abner Gomez, the U.S. commonwealth’s emergency management director.

Inside Washington

ny times logoNew York Times, Insurers Come Out Swinging Against New Health Bill, Robert Pear, Sept. 20, 2017. The health insurance industry said that state-by-state block grants could create chaos in the short term and an uncertain market.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion and Reality Check: Don’t Buy into the Myth of ‘Tax Reform,’ Martin Lobel, Sept. 20, 2017. President Donald Trump has called on Congress to quickly pass sweeping “tax reform” legislation this year. While his entire plan remains something of a mystery, one element stands out: Trump has insisted on reducing the corporate tax rate to 15%.

Any debate on tax policy is fraught with confusing terms, doublespeak and a whole lot of obfuscation. As the GOP’s efforts to fundamentally alter the tax code are about to kick into high gear, WhoWhatWhy has prepared this primer to cut through the rhetoric and pull back the curtain on this “reform.”

Don’t Confuse Tax Cuts with Tax Reform. Our tax code is too complicated and unfair because it was designed by lobbyists for special interests. That is why the groups and individuals with the resources to influence lawmakers end up being the primary beneficiaries of the government’s tax policy.

For example, most of the proposed tax cut “reforms” being proposed will primarily benefit the very rich at the expense of the middle class. Such tax cuts — in addition to increasing the record-high income disparity between the top 1% and the rest of America — also increase the danger of a major market collapse.

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American Flag

Washington Post, Federal court denies cash awards to 22 million OPM data theft victims, Eric Yoder, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found no legal basis for awarding compensation to people whose personal information was stolen from the Office of Personnel Management.

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Washington Post, EPA agents pulled from investigating crimes to provide Scott Pruitt 24/7 protection, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Sept. 20, 2017. The practice has rankled some employees and outside critics, who note that the EPA’s criminal enforcement efforts already are understaffed and that the Trump administration has proposed further cuts to the division.

Vanity Fair via TPM, Peter Thiel In Line For Trump Intelligence Advisory Post, Esme Cribb, Sept. 20, 2017.  Billionaire Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel is in discussions to take a top role advising President Donald Trump on the activities of the intelligence community, Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday.

peter thiel npc noel st john oct 31 2016

Peter Thiel (Shown in a 2016 pre-election appearance at the National Press Club, with photo courtesy of Noel St. John)

Thiel is “heavily leaning toward” taking a role as chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which monitors the intelligence community and advises the President on its conduct, according to the Vanity Fair report, which cited an unnamed senior administration aide.

Thiel, a libertarian who spoke in Trump’s support during the Republican National Convention last year, made headlines earlier in 2016 for bankrolling wrestler Hulk Hogan’s successful defamation lawsuit against Gawker for publishing Hogan’s sex tape. Gawker was ordered to pay Hogan $140 million, declared bankruptcy and was ultimately purchased by Univision.

In 2003, Thiel founded Palantir, a secretive data-mining company that has won government national security contracts, including one for an intelligence system to support investigations by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

The unnamed senior administration aide told Vanity Fair, per the report, that if Thiel joins the advisory board he “intends to take a comprehensive look at the U.S. intelligence community’s information-technology architecture.”

“He is super-concerned about Amazon and Google,” the aide said, according to Vanity Fair, though Thiel is apparently less concerned about Facebook (and remains on the company’s board). “He feels they have become New Age global fascists in terms of how they’re controlling the media, how they’re controlling information flows to the public, even how they’re purging people from think tanks. He’s concerned about the monopolistic tendencies.”

Seattle Times, Here’s a List Revealing the Worker-Friendly Labor Laws Trump Just Killed Off, Ann McFeatters, Sept. 20, 2017. Know this: Trump has killed or weakened 860 regulations. We’ve all become bit players in Donald Trump’s bizarre reality show, but behind the bluster, he’s altering our lives through dramatic changes in regulations. Behind the diversion of obnoxious rhetoric, mendacity (1,100 outright lies since Jan. 20) and nail-biting uncertainty, and in between and even during killer hurricanes, Trump and his people are doing extreme damage.

Americans may hate the bureaucratic nonsense government often engenders. But when they can catch their breath, they will be horrified at what Trump has done. The White House boasts that Trump has killed or weakened 860 regulations. Trump, who excoriated former president Barack Obama for using executive orders in frustration when the Republican-led Congress refused to do anything he asked, has himself issued dozens of them. The man who insists he must follow the law by threatening Dreamers (young immigrants illegally brought to America when they were under 16 who now attend school, have jobs or serve in the military) pardoned Joe Arpaio, convicted of unconstitutionally torturing and imprisoning people.

Here is a tiny sampling of what Trump is doing. More people will die in bed because mattresses will no longer have to be as fire-retardant as they are now. Construction site workers will be more likely to be run over by vehicles. Hundreds of endangered species will no longer be on the list for protection..

Sept. 19

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North Korean flag

ny times logoNew York Times, At U.N., Trump Threatens to ‘Totally Destroy North Korea,’ Peter Baker and Somini Sengupta, Sept. 19, 2017. In a bellicose speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump took swipes at North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. With characteristic flourishes, Mr. Trump at times dispensed with the restrained rhetoric many presidents use at the U.N. 

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with Melania Trump at Trump United Nations speech Sept. 19, 2017

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with Melania Trump at President Trump's United Nations speech on Sept. 19, 2017 

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Washington Post, Opinion from Right: Seven takeaways from the weirdest U.N. speech ever, Jennifer Rubin (shown in file photo), Sept. 19, 2017. Unfortunately, a great deal of what he said seemed virtually designed to impair cooperation with America’s objectives.

First, the utter incoherence at the heart of this administration’s foreign policy was summed up in his call for nationalism. “I will always put America first, just like you as the leaders of your countries — and should as the leaders of your countries — put your countries first.” Selling selfishness at a time the United States is looking for allies to make sacrifices is comical.

Second, the notion that the United Nations or our international dealings should be solely about sovereignty is false and undermines our own international efforts....

Fourth, his language is so cringe-worthy as to lower the status and prestige of the United States on the international stage. He quite simply sounds like a child when he says, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.” He is incapable of leaving lingo for low-information voters behind, even when it risks creating doubts about his own maturity and stability. Vowing to “utterly destroy” North Korea if it does not give up its weapons is a reality TV star’s image of how powerful leaders talk. In practice, it comes across as cartoonish.

Legal Net Tightening For Trump, Collaborators?

Michael Cohen (via Flickr from Iowa Politics.com and Preston Kemp)

Michael Cohen (via Flickr from Iowa Politics.com and Preston Kemp) 

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Washington Post, Senate Intelligence Committee interview with Trump lawyer abruptly canceled, Rosalind S. Helderman and Karoun Demirjian, Sept. 19, 2017. Lawyer Michael Cohen had planned to deny playing any role in Russia’s efforts during the 2016 election. But he left the closed-door session after about an hour.

 richard burr oIn a joint statement, committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), shown at right, and ranking Democrat Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.) said the session was canceled because of public statements by Cohen before the interviews. “We were disappointed that Mr. Cohen decided to pre-empt today’s interview by releasing a public statement prior to his engagement with Committee staff, in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment,” they said.

Palmer Report, Analysis from the Left: Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen testifies today before Congress as the walls cave in on Trump, Bill Palmer, Sept. 19, 2017. Now Trump’s attorney is testifying before Congress today about his own role in the Trump-Russia scandal, which is complex to say the least. Remarkably, Cohen’s testimony comes amid total chaos having broken out in the scandal and investigation in question.

Last night it was revealed that there has been a FISA surveillance warrant on Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort all along, and that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is on the verge of indicting Manafort. This raises immediate questions as to whether Trump was intercepted when he made numerous phone calls to Manafort after taking office (almost certainly), and whether Trump admitted to or learned about any crimes during those conversations (an open question).

The imminent indictment of Manafort is likely to set off a feeding frenzy of Trump associates feeling out the possibility of flipping on him, as they may only be able to get favorable deals before Manafort inevitably flips on all of them.

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Washington Post, Special counsel Robert Mueller tightening the screws on Paul Manafort, James Hohmann, Sept. 19, 2017. Mueller’s team has shown far more deference to current White House officials than associates of Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Courts Around the Nation

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Delayed: 10 Years in Jail, but Still Awaiting Trial, Serge F. Kovaleski, Sept. 19, 2017 (print edition). Kharon Davis was 22 when he was charged with capital murder and booked into the county jail. Ten years later, he is still there, awaiting trial.

He has had two judges, four teams of lawyers and nine trial dates, the first of which was in 2008. His mother, Chrycynthia Davis, says she has been allowed to visit him just once in the last three years.

The case, State of Alabama v. Kharon Torchec Davis, underscores how the country’s justice system can founder at many levels, especially for poor defendants. And it exposes the loopholes in the constitutional protections that are supposed to ensure that both the victims and the accused receive timely justice.

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Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s pardon of Arpaio can — and should — be overturned, Laurence H. Tribe and Ron Fein, Sept. 19, 2017 (print edition). Laurence Tribe is a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School. Ron Fein is the legal director of Free Speech for People, which has filed an amicus brief in the Arpaio case. A federal judge in Arizona will soon consider whether to overturn President Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio (shown in a file photo). Although the conventional legal wisdom has been that a presidential decision to grant a pardon is unreviewable, that is wrong. In this circumstance, Trump’s decision to pardon Arpaio was unconstitutional and should be overturned.

Melania Furious Over billboard

 Melania Trump Twitter photoAssociated Press via Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Melania Trump threatens lawsuit over English class billboards, Darko Bandix, Sept. 19, 2017. Billboards featuring Melania Trump and the slogan "just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English" were removed Tuesday from the Croatian capital after her lawyer threatened a lawsuit. The billboards were part of a marketing campaign by a private English language school in Zagreb, which tried to persuade Croats to learn English by reminding them of the Slovenian-born U.S. first lady's personal experience.

But Mrs. Trump did not accept what was apparently meant to be a joke about her English, spoken with a heavy accent. Her Slovenian lawyer demanded that the billboards, showing Melania Trump delivering a speech standing before a fluttering American flag, be immediately removed."I'm satisfied with the fact that the school admitted that they violated the law and that they are ready to remove the billboards and (Facebook) ads," lawyer Natasa Pirc-Musar told The Associated Press. "We are still analyzing possible further legal steps."

Melania Trump has hired the law firm to protect her image, which has appeared on various products in her native Slovenia, including cakes, underwear and tourism advertisements.

Pirc-Musar said that the Croatian school has apologized for the billboards, but that the statement also needs to be published by the Croatian and Slovenian state news agencies.

Political Assasssinations

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Did the CIA Assassinate Letelier and Moffitt? Jacob G. Hornberger, Sept. 19, 2017. Ever since the assassination of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier in 1976, the official position, promoted by both the mainstream press and the Washington establishment, was that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who the U.S. helped install into power, ordered the hit on Letelier. Yet, as I pointed out in my 3-part article “The Assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt,” which was published in the January, February, and March 2017 issues of FFF’s monthly journal, Future of Freedom, that position is problematic.

Hurricane, Earthquake Disasters

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Washington Post, Hurricane Maria devastates Dominica, heads toward Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm, Jason Samenow​, Sept. 19, 2017. The storm has rapidly intensified, which is a potentially disastrous scenario for the Caribbean islands it will sweep across in the coming days. Meanwhile, another hurricane, Jose, could scrape part of the Northeastern U.S. coast from Long Island to Massachusetts.

mexico flag1New York Times, Dozens Killed as Powerful Earthquake Hits Mexico, Kirk Semple, Palina Villegas and Elisabeth Malkin, Sept. 19, 2017. At least 42 are dead in one state alone, and 20 buildings in Mexico City collapsed. Images showed crushed cars and falling facades.The death toll is expected to climb much higher, as rescuers work frantically to dig out people trapped beneath mounds of rubble.

Related news: Washington Post, Strong earthquake shakes central Mexico, damaging buildings and causing panic, Joshua Partlow​, Sept. 19, 2017. The 7.1-magnitude quake occurred on the anniversary of the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake. It was the second powerful temblor to jolt the country this month.

Sept. 18

Stuff (New Zealand), Donald Trump retweets violent GIF of himself hitting Hillary Clinton with golf ball, Sept. 18, 2017 (New Zealand Time). djt clinton golf ball gifUS President Donald Trump is again courting controversy on Twitter after retweeting a GIF that appears to show him hitting a golf ball into rival Hillary Clinton's back, causing her to fall over.

The GIF combines real footage of Trump playing golf and Clinton falling over as she walks onto a plane, but the golf ball has been edited into the Clinton video to make it seem as though it had struck her.

Inside Washington

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Washington Post, As Trump’s presidency grows more polarizing, a potentially troubling trend emerges for his hotels and clubs, David A. Fahrenthold, Amy Brittain and Matea Gold, Sept. 18, 2017 (print edition). To assess the state of Trump’s hospitality business, The Washington Post reviewed public records, data released by the Trump Organization and social-media postings from Trump properties. The Post identified a sample of more than 200 groups that had rented out meeting rooms or golf courses at a Trump property since 2014. Here's what our reporting found.

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Washington Post, Former whistleblower starts legal aid group to guide would-be tipsters, Carol Morello, Sept. 18, 2017. In a city filled with leakers, congressional committees with subpoena powers and investigative reporters, John N. Tye wants to make it easier to expose government wrongdoing without getting fired or breaking the law.

A former State Department whistleblower, Tye and lawyer Mark S. Zaid have formed Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit law office to help would-be tipsters in the government and the military navigate the bureaucratic and legal morass involved in reporting governmental misdeeds.

state dept map logo SmallWhistleblowing can be a challenge for people who have taken an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, Tye said in a telephone interview. Tye’s interest in whistleblowing came from a stint as section chief for Internet freedom in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, from 2011 to 2014. He came forward as a whistleblower to publicize the government’s electronic surveillance practices.

The organization has a website, whistlebloweraid.org. But contacting it takes some forensic skills. To maintain security, it won’t accept phone calls, text messages or emails, because someone in the government could be surveilling communication.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyers Clash Over Russia Inquiry Cooperation, Peter Baker and Kenneth P. Vogel, Sept. 18, 2017 (print edition). The debate, which led to an angry confrontation between two members of the legal team, could shape the course of the special counsel’s investigation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Demand Another Vote to Repeal the Affordable Care Act, Robert Pear, Sept. 18, 2017. Just when the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act appeared to be dead, a last-ditch push to obliterate the law could be nearing a showdown vote in the Senate, and a handful of Republicans insist they are closing in on the votes.

The leaders of the latest repeal effort, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (shown at left) and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, say their drive is gaining momentum. But it is still a long shot. Under their bill, millions could lose coverage, Medicaid would see the same magnitude of cuts that earlier repeal bills extracted, and insurers in some states could charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.

Already, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has said he will not vote for the measure because it leaves too much of the Affordable Care Act in place.

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion from Libertarian/Right, The Supreme Court Failed Us on Vietnam, Jacob G. Hornberger, Sept. 18, 2017. With last night’s beginning of Ken Burns’ new documentary about the Vietnam War, the war will be brought back to the front burner for national discussion and debate.

There is one thing that is crystal clear and indisputable about the U.S. intervention into Vietnam’s civil war: The intervention was illegal under our form of government. That’s because it was waged in violation of the U.S. Constitution, the document that sets forth the powers of U.S. officials, including those in the military and the CIA.

The Constitution does not give the power to initiate war to the president. Thus, if the president initiates war against another nation without a congressional declaration of war, he is acting unlawfully under our form of government.

supreme court sealThe interesting question is: Why didn’t the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal judiciary declare the U.S. war on North Vietnam to be unconstitutional?

The federal judiciary has long rationalized its deference to the Pentagon and the CIA in terms of rhetoric like respect for “the coordinate branches of the government” or by suggesting that federal judges lack foreign-policy expertise or by simply asserting that a petitioners lacks “standing” to bring a legal action to declare a war to be unconstitutional.

In actuality, there is a more fundamental reason for judicial deference to the president and the U.S. national-security establishment.

The federal judges and the Supreme Court justices knew that, as a practical matter, there was no way that the president, backed by the military and the CIA, would comply with a judicial decision declaring the U.S. war in Vietnam to be unconstitutional. They also knew that, as a practical matter, there was no way for the federal courts to enforce their ruling against the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA.

Media: Another Scandal Allegation At Fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Guest Says Rape Allegation Blacklisted Her Career, Emily Steel, Sept. 18, 2017. Fox News, which for more than a year has dealt with the fallout from an embarrassing sexual harassment scandal, was sued on Monday by the political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, who claimed that she had been raped by the longtime anchor Charles Payne and was then retaliated against by the network after she came forward with her allegation.

fox news logo SmallMr. Payne, the host of “Making Money” on Fox Business, returned to the air this month after the network suspended him in July pending an investigation into his conduct. Upon his return, the network said that it had completed the investigation, which began after Ms. Hughes took her allegations to the network in late June.

Mr. Payne’s lawyer, Jonathan N. Halpern, said in a statement on Monday that his client ”vehemently denies any wrongdoing and will defend himself vigorously against this baseless complaint.”

“We are confident that when the evidence is presented in this case,” he continued, “Mr. Payne will be fully vindicated and these outrageous accusations against him will be confirmed as completely false.”

In her lawsuit, Ms. Hughes said that Mr. Payne had “pressured” his way into her hotel room in July 2013 and coerced her to have sexual intercourse with him, even though she had refused his advances by telling him “no” and “stop.”

Sept. 17

Secretive Officials Strike Back At Citizens

Associated Press via Columbus Dispatch, Some agencies now suing citizens, journalists who seek public records, Ryan J. Foley, Sept. 17, 2017. An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct.

Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records.

Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests — taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.

The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damages. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it’s becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics.

“This practice essentially says to a records requester, ‘File a request at your peril,’” said University of Kansas journalism professor Jonathan Peters, who wrote about the issue for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2015, before several more cases were filed. “These lawsuits are an absurd practice and noxious to open government.”

Government officials who have employed the tactic insist they are acting in good faith. They say it’s best to have courts determine whether records should be released when legal obligations are unclear — for instance, when the documents might be shielded by an exemption or privacy laws.

Major Middle Eastern Developments

nouri al maliki 2011Associated Press via Times of Israel, Iraq vice president warns against ‘second Israel’ in Kurdistan, Staff report, Sept. 17, 2017. As referendum nears, Nouri al-Maliki says a country set up on a religious or ethnic base, like the Jewish state, would be 'unacceptable.'

An Iraqi vice president warned Sunday that Baghdad would not tolerate the creation of “a second Israel,” after the Jewish state became the only country to support a planned Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq.

The leaders of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan must “call off the [September 25] referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds,” said Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, shown in a file photo and prime minister from 2006 to 2014.

Museums, Media

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Holocaust Museum Sought Lessons on Syria. What It Got Was a Political Backlash, Sopan Dev and Max Fisher, Sept. 17, 2017, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is finding itself in an unfamiliar position: as a lightning rod for the fierce debate over the Obama administration’s role in the Syrian civil war.

The museum is facing withering criticism after pulling a study that it commissioned on Syria and published online Aug. 29. The report examined whether alternate strategies could have lessened the bloodshed, now in its sixth year.

Museum leaders and the study’s authors had sought lessons on how a future president could mitigate similar crises. Though the authors found much to dislike in President Obama’s decisions on Syria, they also concluded that no single American action would have guaranteed a significant reduction in the violence there.

Critics of the study have portrayed that conclusion as an attempt to let Mr. Obama off the hook for the killings in Syria — a weighty charge for the Holocaust museum to confront, given that it is a moral force on issues of war, mass killings and government intervention. The museum ultimately pulled down the study after receiving complaints from allies.

Since then, the museum has been caught in a political debate and faced questions about academic freedom and the board’s ties to the Obama administration.

ken burns lynn novick croppedPublic Broadcasting System (PBS), The Vietnam War, Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (shown above), Sept. 17, 2017 (national premiere). The Vietnam War is a ten-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that will air on PBS in September 2017. In an immersive 360-degree narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The Vietnam War features testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, aswell as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

Six years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th Century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations and more than 100 iconic musical recordings by many of the greatest artists of the era.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion on Syrian-ISIS War: Eliminating ISIS' Remains, B, Sept. 17, 2017. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces (shown celebrating a victory). Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?

Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Formerly ISIS-aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue on map). A "warning shot" was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several SDF were wounded. The U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.

There is no more need for any U.S. intervention to achieve the total defeat of the Islamic State. While the U.S. president had declared that his country has no further interest in Syria but the defeat of ISIS, other forces within the U.S. ruling structure have likely different ideas. We can expect some operations, by "independent" U.S. proxy forces or by "accidental" bombing, to hinder the Syrian and Iraqi government plans.

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Washington Post, Blood flowed in the streets. Refugees from one Rohingya hamlet recount days of horror, Annie Gowen, Sept. 17, 2017 (print edition). Those fleeing Burma’s military crackdown, which has triggered an exodus of an estimated 400,000 refugees, say civilians were gunned down and villages torched. Those who escaped into Bangladesh have overflowed an existing refugee camp — and the tide is expected to grow in the coming days.

bradley manning uniformed portraitConsortium News, Opinion: Harvard’s Cowardice on Chelsea Manning, Robert Parry, Sept. 17, 2017. In an abject display of intellectual cowardice, Harvard’s Kennedy School withdrew a fellowship from Chelsea Manning (shown both in uniform and currently at right) after hearing protests from accomplices in the war crimes she exposed.

chelsea manning twitterThe Kennedy School caved in to pressure from people who shared in responsibility for those and other crimes, including former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, who resigned his own fellowship in protest and denounced Manning as “a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.”

Of course, it is also true that Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed for criminal violations pertaining to his protests against “legal” injustices — as was South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Manning represented perhaps America’s quintessential prisoner of conscience of this decade, someone who was severely punished for exposing wrongdoing.

Sept. 16

Who Rules the White House?

Boston Globe, Opinion: America’s slow-motion military coup, Stephen Kinzer, Sept. 16,  2017. Author Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at Brown University. In a democracy, no one should be comforted to hear that generals have imposed discipline on an elected head of state. That was never supposed to happen in the United States. Now it has.

Among the most enduring political images of the 20th century was the military junta. It was a group of grim-faced officers — usually three — who rose to control a state. The junta would tolerate civilian institutions that agreed to remain subservient, but in the end enforced its own will. As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece.

john kelly o dhs

Gen. John F. Kelly Homeland Security

These days the junta system is making a comeback in, of all places, Washington. Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the secretary of defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff (shown in military attire at left and at right); and General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser (shown below right).

 They do not put on their ribbons to review military parades or dispatch death squads to kill opponents, as members of old-style juntas did. Yet their emergence reflects a new stage in the erosion of our political norms and the militarization of our foreign policy. Another veil is dropping.

Given the president’s ignorance of world affairs, the emergence of a military junta in Washington may seem like welcome relief. After all, its three members are mature adults with global experience — unlike Trump and some of the wacky political operatives who surrounded him when he moved into the White House. Already they have exerted a stabilizing influence. Mattis refuses to join the rush to bomb North Korea, Kelly has imposed a measure of order on the White House staff, and McMaster pointedly distanced himself from Trump’s praise for white nationalists after the violence in Charlottesville.

Being ruled by generals seems preferable to the alternative. It isn’t.

Military officers, like all of us, are products of their background and environment. The three members of Trump’s junta have 119 years of uniformed service between them. They naturally see the world from a military perspective and conceive military solutions to its problems. That leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones.

james mattis o

Trump has made clear that when he must make foreign policy choices, he will defer to “my generals.” Mattis, the new junta’s strongman (shown at right), is the former head of Central Command, which directs American wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Kelly is also an Iraq veteran. McMaster has commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan almost without interruption since he led a tank company in the 1991 Gulf War.

 Trump's DOJ Blocks Mar-a-Lago Visitor Records

mar a lago aerial CustomDonald Trump's Florida resort home Mar-a-Lago, which is also a country club and his frequent destination (File photo)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Declines to Release Full List of Mar-a-Lago Visitors, Eric Lipton, Sept. 16, 2017. The Trump administration on Friday escalated a battle with government ethics groups by declining, even in the face of a federal court order, to release the identities of individuals visiting with President Trump at his family’s Mar-a-Lago resort during the days he has spent at the private club in Palm Beach, Fla., this year.

Major Developments In ISIS, Syrian, Iraqi, Kurd, U.S. Battles

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syria flagWashington Post, U.S.-backed forces come under attack from pro-Assad fighters in Syria, Louisa Loveluck, Sept. 16, 2017. The fighting escalated tensions on one of the country’s most complex and contested battlefields. The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said the attack took place in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, where the U.S.-backed militia is fighting the Islamic State as an Iran-backed force mounts a rival offensive.

russian flagWhile SDF fighters have advanced against Islamic State positions on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, forces allied to President Bashar al-Assad’s government have scythed through the extremist group’s territory from the western side, bringing the rival offensives to within several miles of each other. Parallel report: Associated Press via Times of Israel, Russian airstrike hits US-backed fighters in Syria, wounding 6, Staff report, Sept. 16, 2017.

SouthFront, Popular Mobilization Units Launches Large-Scale Anti-ISIS Operation Near Syrian Border, Staff report, Sept. 16, 2017. On Saturday, the Iraqi Army, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Federal Police launched a large-scale military operation against the ISIS terrorist group in the western part of Anbar province. The PMU and their allies will be able to establish a better link with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies in Syria via a land route thourgh the Syrian-Iraqi border. 

SouthFront, Video: Russian Warplanes Propel Tiger Forces Advance Near Deir Ezzor (1:59 min. video), Staff report, Sept. 16, 2017. Russian warplanes are striking ISIS targets near Deir Ezzor propelling the Syrian Arab Army Tiger Forces advancey.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Why the U.S. Allowed a Convoy of ISIS Fighters to Go Free, Rod Nordland and Eric Schmitt, Sept. 16, 2017. American officials said the decision to end a two-week standoff involved competing priorities, speaking to the complexity of the Syrian war. The bus was part of a convoy carrying 300 Islamic State fighters that had been stuck there for days, prevented by American bombers from moving forward and prevented by the presence of women and children from being bombed. By the American military’s count, 20 Islamic State fighters in the convoy died like that.

Those killings were among the consolation prizes the Americans claimed after ending the two-week standoff this week, reversing a vow never to let the militants pass and yielding a tactical victory to the Islamic State. All told, American airstrikes had destroyed 40 ISIS rescue vehicles and killed 85 fighters, some from the convoy, others among would-be rescuers.  syria isis convoy route nytimes 9 11 17

Bus evacuation route (in red) of 300 ISIS fighters, 300 family members following transport deal from Lebanese battlefield to Iraq-Syrian border (New York Times map)

 As the standoff stretched from days into weeks, the United States military was also concerned about bad publicity over the plight of the civilians stranded on the buses. Although food and water was being delivered to the convoy, temperatures were high in the desert and before it was over, according to a senior Hezbollah official in Syria, three babies had been born to women in the buses.

syria flagSyrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Russian warplanes destroy three ISIS workshops for making booby-trapped vehicles in eastern area, Staff report, Sept. 16, 2017. Terrorists fill the old military vehicles with explosives and use them for suicidal operations. The destruction capability of these vehicles covers a circle with a diameter of 300 meters and cause huge destruction.

Other Terror, Corruption Global News

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united kingdom flagWashington Post, British police arrest suspect in connection with subway blast, William Booth, Karla Adam and Rick Noack​, ​Sept. 16, 2017. The 18-year-old man, who has not been charged, was being held under the Terrorism Act after Friday’s explosion of a makeshift bomb injured at least 29 people near central London. British media reported that the crude explosive device, carried in a bucket and shoved into a shopping bag, had a timer.

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india flag mapWashington Post, The brutal deaths of anti-corruption activists in India, Vidhi Doshi, Sept. 16, 2017 (print edition). At least 60 right-to-information advocates have been killed since 2005. Bhupendra Vira slumped in his chair. The 62-year-old had known that his anti-corruption work was dangerous. That is why he kept evidence neatly stacked in folders under his bed. That is why he had asked police for protection.

According to data collected by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Vira’s killing was one of 60 similar cases in India since 2005, when the Right to Information Act was introduced. The legislation is similar to the United States’ Freedom of Information Act and allows citizens to request the release of information from government officials. But in India, those who invoke the law risk provoking violent retribution.

 washington post logochina flagWashington Post, China used to harvest organs from prisoners. Under pressure, that practice is finally ending, Simon Denyer, Sept. 16, 2017 (print edition). A 10-year campaign has created a system that relies on voluntary donors. China’s organ-transplant system was once a cause of international scorn and outrage, as doctors harvested organs from prisoners condemned to death by criminal courts and transplanted them into patients who often paid dearly for the privilege.

After years of denials, China now acknowledges that history and has declared that the practice no longer occurs — largely thanks to the perseverance of a health official who, with the quiet backing of an American transplant surgeon, turned the system around over the span of a decade.

That official, Huang Jiefu, built a register of voluntary donors, overcoming both entrenched interests that profited from the old ways and a traditional Chinese aversion to dismemberment after death. In true modern Chinese fashion, donors can sign up through a link and app available through the ubiquitous Alipay online payment system. More than 230,000 people have done so, and a computerized database matches donors with compatible potential recipients, alerting doctors by text message as soon as organs become available. Leading transplant experts outside China, including once-severe critics, have slowly been won over.

“There has been a substantial change in China which has been in the right direction,” said Jeremy Chapman, a leading Australian physician and former president of the Transplantation Society who in the past had harshly censured Chinese transplantation practices.

Florida Hurricane Fall-out

washington post logorick scott abcWashington Post, Fla. nursing home where eight died after Irma defends actions, says it called governor for help, Aaron C. Davis, Sept. 16, 2017. “Repeatedly, I was told that our case was being escalated to the highest level,” an executive said. The night before Hurricane Irma began roaring over Florida, staffers at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills locked the doors, shuttered the windows and turned the temperature down to about 67 degrees — a buffer, administrators thought, to keep the building cool in case the power went out.

It wouldn’t last long. About 3 p.m. on Sunday, the lights flickered, nursing-home executives say. The power stayed on, but a janitor soon noticed a problem: The massive chiller used to serve the 152-bed facility was spewing warm, muggy air.

The following evening, Natasha Anderson, one of the executives, called a private phone number for Gov. Rick Scott (R) (shown above) seeking urgent help, Anderson said. It was the first of three such calls, she said, to a number that officials confirmed Scott gave out to nursing homes as an emergency backup in planning calls before the storm.

The account the nursing-home executives provided to the Post offers new details of the deteriorating conditions inside the facility. But it also is contradicted by law enforcement and state officials on key points, including how aggressively the nursing home had sought assistance and precisely when staffers called 911 as a patient went into cardiac arrest.

FBI Probes Congressional IT Workers

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal probe into House technology worker Imran Awan yields intrigue, no evidence of espionage, Shawn Boburg, Sept. 16, 2017. In late September 2016, leaders in the House of Representatives met behind closed doors for briefings on a closely held investigation into a group of computer technicians working on Capitol Hill.

us house logoInvestigators with the Inspector General’s Office had been quietly tracking the five IT workers’ digital footprints for months. They were alarmed by what they saw. The employees appeared to be accessing congressional servers without authorization, an indication that they “could be reading and/or removing information,” according to documents distributed at the previously unreported private briefings.

For some who listened to the findings, the fact that the employees were born in Pakistan set off alarms about national security, according to two participants who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Others thought it more likely that the IT workers, naturalized U.S. citizens, were bending rules on network access to share job duties — violations of House protocol, perhaps, but not espionage.

Since then, the story of the House IT workers — brothers Imran Awan, Abid Awan and Jamal Awan, as well as Imran Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, and friend Rao Abbas — has become a lightning rod charged by the convergence of politics, cybersecurity and fears of foreign intrusion.

Sept. 15

London Terrorist Bombing

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united kingdom flagWashington Post, London police call blast on subway during rush hour a terrorist incident, William Booth and Karla Adam​, Sept. 15, 2017. The explosion near central London was from a makeshift bomb. At least 18 people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening. President Trump decried the “loser terrorist,” saying “sick and demented people ... were in the sights of Scotland Yard.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Tweets About London Bombing Anger British Leaders, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, Sept.15, 2017. President Trump, without citing evidence, said the attackers “were in the sights of Scotland Yard.” British officials said the comments were “extremely unhelpful.” Mr. Trump also cited the London attack to again push for his hard-line travel ban on visitors from predominantly Muslim counties.

New North Korean Missible Test

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Washington Post, North Korea fires a missile over Japan for the second time in three weeks, Anna Fifield and Dan Lamothe​, Sept. 15, 2017. North Korea fired another missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday morning, just a day after Pyongyang said that Japan “should be sunken into the sea” with a nuclear bomb and that the United States should be “beaten to death” with a stick “fit for a rabid dog.”

 This was the second time in less than three weeks that North Korea sent a ballistic missile over Japan, and the launch came less than two weeks after North Korea exploded what is widely believed to be a hydrogen bomb.

Trump Profiteering From Taxpayers?

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washington post logo Washington Post, Taxpayers were billed $1,092 for an official who stayed at Mar-a-Lago, Drew Harwell and Amy Brittain​, Sept. 15, 2017. The receipt for the two-night visit at the president’s Florida club, obtained in recent days by the transparency advocacy group Property of the People and verified by The Post, offers one of the first concrete signs that Donald Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago (shown above) as the “Winter White House” has resulted in taxpayer funds flowing directly into the coffers of his private business.

 Given the number of high-profile presidential events at Mar-a-Lago, questions about who pays for meals and rooms have generally gone unanswered. When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited in February, the White House made a point of saying that Abe would stay at the club free of charge as a personal guest of Trump.

The March invoice was provided to the advocacy group by the Coast Guard in response to a broader Freedom of Information Act request seeking records on the agency’s expenses related to Trump-affiliated properties. The Coast Guard FOIA office searched the agency’s credit card payment records, which led it to the invoice, according to an explanation provided by the agency. 

Soon after the election, the club doubled its initiation fee to $200,000, returning the amount to its pre-recession level. After Trump’s sharp rhetoric on immigration and race in recent months, a number of regular charity customers have opted to move their banquets elsewhere.

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National Security Archive, Trump Hides Mar-a-Lago Records, Trump Golf Facilities Not Out of Bounds for Public Right to Know, Staff report, Sept. 15, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security today released exactly two pages of Mar-a-Lago presidential visitor records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive, together with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

The only document the government released concerns the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - this after telling Judge Failla and the plaintiffs that DHS would produce all the visitor logs."The government misled the plaintiffs and the court," commented  the National Security Archive’s Director Tom Blanton. "I can only conclude that the Trump White House intervened and overrode career lawyers."

U.S. Courts & Civil Rights

Future of Freedom Foundation, Libertarian Analysis: Why No Indictment for Conspiring to Murder Castro? Jacob G. Hornberger (shown below, left), Sept. 15, 2017. During the jacob hornberger headshotChurch Committee hearings in the 1970s, Congress and the American people learned that the CIA, in partnership with the Mafia, conspired to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro (shown at left in a file photo).

Fidel CastroEver since then, the U.S. mainstream media has poked fun at the various ways the CIA and the Mafia intended to kill Castro — e.g., via an exploding cigar or an infected scuba suit. In the process, however, the media has failed to ask a deadly serious question: Why weren’t the CIA and the Mafia ever indicted for conspiring to assassinate Castro?

Under U.S. law, assassination is considered murder. People can be convicted of conspiracy to murder even though they don’t actually commit the murder. The CIA and the Mafia justified their attempts to assassinate Castro by saying that he was a communist and, therefore, a threat to “national security.” But if we closely examine the Constitution, we find that the power to assassinate communists or other people who threaten “national security” is not among the enumerated powers that are delegated to the federal government, including the CIA and its partners.

Justice Department log circularSo, why weren’t the CIA and the Mafia ever indicted for conspiring to murder Fidel Castro? The answer is simple: The CIA is much too powerful. That’s what makes it and its partners immune from criminal liability for murdering and conspiring to murder Fidel Castro or anyone else.

Stephen Pollak, who served during the Lyndon Johnson administration from 1965 to 1969, highlighted one of the most notable achievements of the Civil Rights Division: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Unlike the present, the president and leaders of both parties in Congress worked together, he said. “It’s beyond disheartening to contrast this history with the voting wars of the day,” Pollak said. “Prior unity of purpose has collapsed.”

Major Developments In Syria

SouthFront, Syrian Government Forces Crossed Euphrates River And Gained Foothold On Its Eastern Bank: Russia, Staff report, Sept. 15, 2017. After a victory near Deir Ezzor city, Syrian government forces have successfully crossed the Euphrates River and gained foothold on its eastern bank, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said during a weekly press briefing.Zakharova added that the Russia military as well as the Syrian Army is now working on forcing ISIS to leave Deir Ezzor city and defusing IEDs and mines planted by the terrorists.

brent mcgurk kurdistan regional pres masoud barzani twitterBrett McGurk (C), Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani (R). Source Brent McGurk Twitter

SouthFront, US-led Coalition: Almost 2,000 Kurdish Peshmerga Fighters, 10,000 Iraqi Forces Troops Died During Campaign Against ISIS, Staff report, Sept. 15, 2017.  Almost 2,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and 10,000 Iraqi forces troops have been killed during the campaign against ISIS, Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the US-led coalition against ISIS, said during a press conference in the city of Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region on Thursday.

The US presidential envoy added that “political disagreements” should not impact future battles against ISIS in Iraq. McGurk emphaseized that “it is very important that we remain united and focused on the effort to defeat Daesh and ensure they have a lasting defeat. And this war against Daesh is not over. They are still in Hawija, just south of here. And those operations will be starting very soon. And we have to make sure that we all remain focused on this very serious threa

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SouthFront, Kurdistan Region Parliament Approves Independence Referendum On September 25, Staff report, Sept. 15, 2017. On September 15, an overwhelming majority of the members of the Kurdistan Region Parliament approved the Kurdistan Region independence referendum set to be held on September 25. On September 12, the Iraqi Parliament had voted against the referendum making it illegal according to the Iraqi constitution.

Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said earlier at a pro-referendum gathering in Amedi area that the people of Kurdistan do not take orders from the Iraqi parliament that has sidelined the Kurdish minority.

SouthFront, Establishment Of Four De-Escalation Zones, Including Idlib, in Syria Officially Announced, Staff report, Sept. 15, 2017. Russia, Iran and Turkey, acting as guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, have officially announced the establishment of four de-escalation zones in the country, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said during the Astana talks on Syria on Friday.

The de-escalation zones are “a temporary measure which will initially last 6 months and will be automatically extended on the basis of guarantors’ consensus,” according to the statement.The sides also introduced a joint Iranian-Russian-Turkish Coordination Center “to coordinate activities in the de-escalation areas.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vatican diplomat in Washington recalled due to child-porn investigation, Julie Zauzmer​, Sept. 15, 2017. U.S. officials found evidence implicating the unidentified diplomat. Like envoys from other countries, Vatican diplomats have immunity from prosecution in the United States. 

U.S. Political Disputes

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chelsea manning twitterWashington Post, After backlash, Harvard rescinds Chelsea Manning’s visiting fellow invitation, calling it a ‘mistake,’ Andrew deGrandpre​, Sept. 15, 2017.  Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government rescinded a visiting fellowship offered to Chelsea Manning (shown at right), the former military intelligence analyst who spent seven years in prison for leaking classified government secrets, after the university faced forceful backlash from CIA Director Mike Pompeo among others.

“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Douglas W. Elmendorf, the school’s dean, wrote in a 700-word statement released shortly after midnight Friday.

Manning was one of four visiting fellows announced two days earlier by the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. As part of the program, visiting fellows appear on Harvard’s campus for speaking engagements and events, interacting with undergraduate students on “topical issues of today,” the school’s initial announcement explained.

Manning responded with a Twitter message: "this is what a military/police/intel state looks like 🕵️🕵️‍♀️ the @cia determines what is and is not taught at @harvard."

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jeff sessions ag oWashington Post, Analysis: Why Trump’s DACA ‘deal’ is another humiliation for Jeff Sessions, James Hohmann, Sept. 15, 2017. The main reason the attorney general (shown at right) chose to put up with indignities that might cause most people to quit was because he believed he could make a difference on immigration policy. But it took under 10 days for President Trump to once again undercut him, signaling a plan to grant permanent legal status to “dreamers” as part of a deal with Democrats that Trump said is close to being finalized.

Facebook Deal With Mueller On Russian Records?

facebook logoPalmer Report, Robert Mueller just landed a major new search warrant in Trump-Russia probe, Bill Palmer, Sept. 15, 2017. Over the past week, Facebook has finally acknowledged that it sold election advertising to fake Russian accounts, and it’s turned over relevant data to the Congressional investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. Now it turns out Facebook has turned over far more data to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting that he obtained it via search warrant – which would significantly alter the trajectory of his overall probe.

Facebook has turned over more data to Mueller than it gave to Congress, and apparently more data than its own policies call for, according to a new Wall Street Journal report. This new revelation has led the WSJ to conclude that Mueller probably used a search warrant to get his hands on the information. CNN has since confirmed the warrant (link) I think this goes even further than has been reported. Facebook is trying to save face in two ways here.

Sept. 14

DACA 'Deal' Sparks Disputes

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Washington Post, Trump’s dealing on DACA sparks confusion, shifting alliances on Capitol Hill, Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe and Mike DeBonis, Sept. 14, 2017. President Trump in deciding to pursue a deal with Democrats to protect “dreamers” has once again upended typical partisan dynamics on Capitol Hill, with Democrats and more centrist Republicans praising his choice and at least one ultraconservative lawmaker reacting with muted outrage.

Donald Trump

Thursday morning unfolded chaotically, beginning less than 12 hours after Democratic congressional leaders announced plans to work with Trump on an agreement allowing illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain in the country while enacting border security measures in lieu — at least for now — of Trump’s much-promised border wall. After Trump took to Twitter before dawn to reassure his base, claiming “no deal was made” on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program yet defending the goals of the negotiations as announced, Democratic leaders released a joint statement to clarify.

 “President Trump’s tweets are not inconsistent with the agreement reached last night,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stated.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) seemed miffed at being kept out of the loop. “Morn news says u made deal w Schumer on DACA/hv ur staff brief me,” he tweeted at Trump. 

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Washington Post, Trump, top Democrats agree to work on deal to save ‘dreamers’ from deportation, Ed O'Keefe and David Nakamura, Sept. 14, 2017 (print edition). At a dinner late Wednesday, the president and Democratic leaders in Congress agreed to work out an agreement that would protect the nation’s “dreamers” from deportation and enact border security measures that don’t include building a physical wall, according to people familiar with the meeting.

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Washington Post, Analysis on ‘Amnesty Don’: Trump tests faith of supporters with talk of immigration deal, Robert Costa and Michael Scherer, Sept. 14, 2017. The president forged a fundamental bond with his voters over “build the wall” and a hard line on immigration, but his agreement this week with Democratic leaders sparked bitter talk of betrayal among some of his staunchest conservative defenders — and forced many of them to rethink their loyalties.

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Washington Post, With Trump, it is never over, Joe Scarborough (shown below), Sept. 14, 2017. Trump’s overture to Democrats enrages the talk-right. But his base sticks with him. The tweet by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) read like a primal scream. “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair,” he bellowed. “No promise is credible.”

joe scarborough headshotKing wasn’t alone in his horror that President Trump appears on the verge of doing a deal with his old friends, Chuck and Nancy — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — that would write into law protections he had once vowed to undo, for the young “dreamers” covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

But Hannity, Bannon and King are about to learn the same lesson that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Jeff Zucker, Mika Brzezinski and I discovered in 2016: With Trump, it is never over. His base will stick with him no matter what — no matter how loudly and how often the other self-styled leaders of that base take to Twitter or talk radio or any other platform to bleat that Trump has betrayed them.

Post-Hurricane Follow-up

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Hollywood, FL nursing home's owners given pass by Trump's Labor Secretary, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 14, 2017 (subscription required for full article). The owners of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Florida — where eight elderly residents died after a power failure caused by Hurricane Irma cut off the air conditioning — received a sweetheart deal on federal fraud charges from the then-U.S. Attorney for Florida Alex Acosta.

rick scott pled fifth

Editor's note: Acosta (shown in an official photo above right) now serves in the Trump cabinet as Secretary of Labor. At left, a Democratic campaign ad during Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott's most recent campaign mocks him for taking the Fifth Amendment (protecting against self-incrimination) 75 times durning probes of his health care business that enriched him and made possible his political career.

Law & Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, As G.O.P. Moves to Fill Courts, McConnell Takes Aim at an Enduring Hurdle, Carl Hulse, Sept. 14, 2014 (print edition). President Trump is eager to put his conservative imprint on the federal judiciary, but an impediment remains. Though the Senate has virtually eliminated the ability of the minority party to block appointments to the bench from the Supreme Court on down, individual senators can still thwart nominees from their home states by refusing to sign off on a form popularly known for its color — the blue slip.

Now, with some Democrats refusing to consent as the Trump administration moves to fill scores of judicial vacancies, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, is for the first time publicly advocating that the blue slip be made strictly advisory when it comes to appeals court nominees — the most powerful judges after those on the Supreme Court.

ny times logoNew York Times, From Prison to Ph.D.: A Tale of Redemption, and Rejection, Eli Hager, Sept. 14, 2017 (print edition), While Michelle Jones was in prison for her son’s murder, she took an unlikely path to academia. She is now starting a Ph.D. program in history at N.Y.U. Her first choice, Harvard, withdrew its offer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Weiner’s Lawyers Question Motivation of Sexting Victim, Benjamin Weiser, Sept. 14, 2017. In their submission to the judge, the lawyers made it clear that such information could have an impact on the judge’s assessment of the nature and circumstances of Mr. Weiner’s crime, and of course on the ultimate sentence.

For Mr. Weiner, the disclosure of his tawdry communications with the girl was another in a long list of self-destructive acts that largely destroyed his marriage and his political career. Mr. Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in June 2011 after an explicit picture, sent from his Twitter account, became public. In May, he pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

But the timing of the girl’s story, which she revealed in an exposé at DailyMail.com in September 2016 and for which she received $30,000, had wider ramifications, the lawyers wrote.Continue reading the main story 

Washington Money, Policies 

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 Washington Post, Kushner’s White House role ‘crushed’ efforts to woo investors for New York tower, Michael Kranish and Jonathan O'Connell​, Sept. 14, 2017 (print edition). The building at 666 Fifth Ave. seems to be the most troubled project that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner left behind for his family to manage, with a fourth of its offices empty and a $1.2 billion loan due in 2019.

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Washington Post, Mnuchin requested military jet for his European honeymoon, Alex Horton and Damian Paletta, Sept. 14, 2017. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested a military jet to fly him and his wife, Louise Linton, to their European honeymoon this summer, raising questions again about the wealthy couple's use of government aircraft.

steven mnuchin wA Treasury Department spokesman said in a statement Wednesday that the request was made so that Mnuchin (shown at right), who is a member of the National Security Council, would have access to secure communications as he traveled abroad.

An Air Force spokesman told ABC News, which first reported the story, that the jet would cost $25,000 an hour to operate, though it is unclear if that included costs like maintenance and fuel. Government workers and troops on travel typically accrue costs for food and lodging.

 Protecting Votes Against Suppression

jesse jackson barbara arnwine npc conference 9 13 17 marta steele

The Rev. Jesse Jackson (at microphone) and civil rights attorney Barbara Arnwine (second from left) at National Press Club Sept. 13 (Marta Steele photo)

OpEdNews, Opinion: Press Conference in DC Announces Establishment of Commission for Voter Justice, Marta Steele, Sept. 14, 2017. In a key event of September's National Voting Rights Month, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and DC civil rights attorney Barbara Arnwine today announced the establishment of a new commission to "document and address the national scourge of voter suppression" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC yesterday.

It will address "voter registration, universal early voting, automatic voter registration at age 18 and restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. It will also produce reports and recommendations to guide public policy in the areas of voting rights and civic engagement." Comprising "prominent voting rights experts, scholars, elected officials, lawyers, students and community activists, the commission will hold a series of hearings around the country to gather testimony directly from U.S. citizens about the undue and often illegal barriers which hinder their ability to effectively participate in the franchise," organizers said.

The commission has been formed as a "counter-narrative" to the ridiculous "Commission on Election Integrity" catalyzed by President Donald Trump to prove that the 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 popular votes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won in excess of his were the result of voter fraud (more on this "commission" below).

Palmer Report, Analysis: GOP leader: Donald Trump has “blown up” and “destroyed” his own base, Bill Palmer, Sept. 14, 2017. The Associated Press tweeted “BREAKING: Schumer, Pelosi announce deal with Trump to protect young immigrants; will include border security, but no wall.” This prompted Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa, who might be the most xenophobically racist white supremacist in Congress, to tweet “If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.” The backlash was apparently much larger than Trump had been expecting, because he swiftly launched into panic mode.

Sept. 13Russian Facebook 2016 presidential campaign troll ads (collage by New York Times)

 Posts taken from “Secured Borders,” a Kremlin-tied Facebook page that posed as an American activist group and spread provocative anti-immigrant messages (Collage by New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, A Russian Plot to Sow Hatred of Immigrants in the U.S., Scott Shane, Sept. 13, 2017 (print edition). An anti-immigrant Facebook page was one of hundreds of fake accounts Russia used during the election. The notice went out on Facebook last year, calling citizens of Twin Falls, Idaho, to an urgent meeting about the “huge upsurge of violence toward American citizens” by Muslim refugees who had settled there.

Facebook logoThe inflammatory post, however, originated not in Idaho but in Russia. The meeting’s sponsor, an anti-immigrant page called “Secured Borders,” was one of hundreds of fake Facebook accounts created by a Russian company with Kremlin ties to spread vitriolic messages on divisive issues.

Facebook acknowledged last week that it had closed the accounts after linking them to advertisements costing $100,000 that were purchased in Russia’s influence campaign during and after the 2016 election. But the company declined to release or describe in detail the pages and profiles it had linked to Russia.

Post-Hurricane Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, How the U.S. Limited the Death Toll in 2 Monster Storms, Richard Fausset, Sept. 13, 2017 (print edition). Technology, building codes, weather forecasts and a better understanding of mass evacuation helped keep the human cost relatively low through Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.“It’s no accident,” a former Federal Emergency Management Agency employee said. “We’ve been training people for this for the last 16 years.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Six dead at Hollywood nursing home where Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning, Anthony Man, Erika Pesantes and Rafael Olmeda, Sept. 13, 2017. Six people died in a Hollywood, Florida, nursing home that had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power.

Three people died at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, whose manager, Jack Michel, was once accused of federal and state health care fraud charges. Three other residents were later declared dead at nearby Memorial Regional Hospital. Police said 115 seniors were evacuated from facility at 1200 N.E. 35 Ave. Some were in respiratory distress.

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 Washington Post, After Irma, a once-lush gem in the U.S. Virgin Islands is now a wasteland, Anthony Faiola, Sept. 13, 2017 (print edition).  St. John is perhaps the site of the hurricane’s worst devastation on American soil. Residents, cut off from the world with no power, no landlines and no cellular service, are leaving — some of them in tears.

Your Congress At Work

israel flagLegiStorm, One in nine House reps went to Israel last month, Keturah Hetrick, Sept. 13, 2017. If Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed on one thing this August, it was the importance of traveling to Israel.

steny hoyer oOne in nine representatives, mostly freshman members of Congress, traveled to Tel Aviv last month, courtesy of the American Israel Education Foundation, a sister organization to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbying group. AIEF spent nearly $490,000 for a week of travel for 12 freshman, five other Democratic members, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md., shown at left) and three of Hoyer's aides. Democratic members attended foreign-relations and Middle East policy meetings, according to disclosure forms.

kevin mccarthyA week later, AIEF spent $668,000 to send 31 Republican members to an education seminar in Tel Aviv. The group included 20 freshman and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif., shown at right), who also brought along three members of his staff. AIEF is consistently among the top congressional trip sponsors.

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It and other interest groups spend such large sums on international travel in the hopes of making and influencing congressional allies, who get immersed for days in issues from the organization's point of view.

Currently, 49 members have disclosed August travel with the group. However, trip-goers have 15 days to file upon their return, and late filings are not uncommon.

syria flagSouthFront, Battle For Deir Ezzor And Race For Oil In Eastern Syria: Analysis, Staff report, Sept. 13, 2017.The military situation is developing rapidly in the province of Deir Ezzor as the ISIS-held area is shrinking under the pressure of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the US-led coalition.

On September 13, the SAA, the Syrian Republican Guard (SRG), Hezbollah and other pro-government factions continued operations against ISIS in the Deir Ezzor area and advanced on ISIS positions at Jafrah, al-Mariiyah and ar-Rouad. Tactical goals in eastern Syria are...:

Arms Trafficking Scandal At Pentagon?

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Map/Infographic produced as part of the OCCRP/BIRN report, itself confirmed by Foreign Policy magazine.

Zero Hedge: Notice the map denotes that prior CIA weapons went directly to Idlib province (northwest, section in green) and the Golan border region (south). Both of these areas were and continue to be occupied by al-Qaeda (in Idlib, AQ’s Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham). In Idlib specifically, analysts have confirmed genocidal cleansing of religious minorities conducted by AQ “rebels” directly assisted by CIA weapons.

ZeroHedge, Bombshell Report Catches Pentagon Falsifying Paperwork For Weapons Transfers To Syrian Rebels, Tyler Durden, Sept. 13, 2017. A new bombshell joint report  by two international weapons monitoring groups Tuesday confirms that the Pentagon continues to ship record breaking amounts of weaponry into Syria and that the Department of Defense is scrubbing its own paper trail.

Department of Defense SealOn Tuesday the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) produced conclusive evidence that not only is the Pentagon currently involved in shipping up to $2.2 billion worth of weapons from a shady network of private dealers to allied partners in Syria – mostly old Soviet weaponry – but is actually manipulating paperwork such as end-user certificates, presumably in order to hide US involvement.

The OCCRP and BIRN published internal US defense procurement files after an extensive investigation which found that the Pentagon is running a massive weapons trafficking pipeline which originates in the Balkans and Caucuses, and ends in Syria and Iraq. The program is ostensibly part of the US train, equip, and assist campaign for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, a coalition of YPG/J and Arab FSA groups operating primarily in Syria’s east). The arms transfers are massive and the program looks to continue for years. James Mattis

According to Foreign Policy’s (FP) coverage (The Pentagon Is Spending $2 Billion Running Soviet-Era Guns to Syrian Rebels) of the report: "The total, $2.2 billion, likely understates the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels in the coming years." (U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a Republican former general, is shown at right. His Democratic predecessor, Ashton Carter, is shown below at left.)

ashton carter dodBut perhaps more shocking is the following admission that Pentagon suppliers have links with known criminal networks, also from FP: "According to the report, many of the weapons suppliers — primarily in Eastern Europe but also in the former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Ukraine — have both links to organized crime throughout Eastern Europe and spotty business records."

It is likely that the organized crime association is the reason why the Pentagon has sought to alter its records. In addition, the sheer volume of weaponry continuing to ship to the Syrian battlefield and other parts of the Middle East means inevitable proliferation among unsavory terror groups – a phenomenon which has already been exhaustively documented in connection with the now reportedly closed CIA programto topple the Syrian government.

The associations and alliances among some of the Arab former FSA groups the DoD continues to support in the north and east remains fluid, which means means US-supplied weapons will continue to pass among groups with no accountability for where they end up.

 Cops & Courts: DC

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Washington Post, Why Metro’s crackdown on fare evasion isn’t just about the money, Martine Powers, Sept. 13, 2017. Metro Transit Police are aggressively ramping up efforts to crack down on fare evasion, doubling the number of citations issued for the offense in the first six months of 2017, according to agency statistics.

According to data released by Metro this week, transit police handed out nearly 7,000 citations or summonses for fare evasion between January and June of this year. That’s a 116 percent jump from the number of citations issued during the same six-month period of 2016.

Transit police also issued 2,130 written warnings and arrested 780 people in the first half of this year. The crackdown is part of a concerted effort by Metro officials to get people to pay their fares — a strategy that’s only partially aimed at recouping lost revenue from unpaid rides. Starting last May, officials began placing audio alarms and magnetic “gate stops” in Gallery Place and Fort Totten stations, an experiment in how to prevent fare scofflaws.

But identifying and penalizing SmarTrip cheats also is part of a plan to reduce incidents of assaults on transit workers, and particularly bus drivers. But Metro believes that if police demonstrate a zero-tolerance approach to fare evasion, riders will stop trying it — thus cutting risks for Metro staff.

White House Seeks Sports Commentator's Firing

Huffington Post, ESPN Host Committed ‘Fireable Offense’ With Trump ‘White Supremacist’ Tweet: White House Aide, Chris D’Angelo Sept. 13, 2017. ESPN should consider firing host Jemele Hill for calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says.

Palmer Report, House Democrats drop a house on Michael Flynn, Bill Palmer, Sept. 13, 2017. Yesterday, Michael Flynn once again refused a request from Congress to testify about his role in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. This was not entirely surprising – he’s invoked the Fifth Amendment before – but it had a sense of finality about it. I wrote last night that this opened the door for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to drop a house on him. Sure enough, the House Democrats just handed Mueller what he needs.

Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel have sent Robert Mueller evidence that Michael Flynn secretly tried to broker a $100 billion deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia, according to CNN (link). Newsweek first alleged the secret deal this summer (link), but now Congress has gathered enough evidence to prove that Flynn broke the law in the process. This evidence now hands Mueller a loaded weapon to use again Flynn, and he’ll do so in aggressive fashion.

Human Rights Crimes Alleged

Global Research, Government of Myanmar’s Behaviour: Crime Against Humanity, Amir A. Amirshekari, Sept. 13, 2017. On 11 September 2017, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, one of the UN high-ranked officials, ranted at United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR), Geneva, condemning the behaviour of the government of Myanmar as “brutal security operation” against the people of Rohingya which was disproportionate to the operation of Rohingya insurgents took place in August 2017.

According to the report of the UN, more than 313,000 people have been forced to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh to date. According to the report of Amnesty International, rape, forced labour, arbitrary arrests, torture, and recruitment of child soldiers took place in the process of ethnic cleansing, and the government of Myanmar deliberately has refused from the help and assistance of Muslims in Rohingya.

Sept. 12

Centcom logoForeign Policy, The Pentagon Is Spending $2 Billion Running Soviet-Era Guns to Syrian Rebels, Rhys Dubin, Sept. 12, 2017. The U.S. Department of Defense is reportedly still funneling billions of dollars’ worth of Soviet-era weaponry to anti-Islamic State groups in Syria, with questionable oversight. In a joint report published Tuesday, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) allege that the Pentagon has given up to $2.2 billion worth of weapons to groups like the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

The program sidesteps long-established checks on international weapons trafficking, the report alleges, and appears to be turbocharging a shadowy world of Eastern European arms dealers. In particular, the Pentagon is reportedly removing documentary evidence about just who will ultimately be using the weapons, potentially weakening one of the bulwarks of international protocols against illicit arms dealing.

The program replaced a failed initial attempt to train and equip so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria beginning in 2014. Nine months later, the program collapsed after the vast majority of trainees were either captured or absorbed into other unvetted groups. The Defense Department then decided that it would instead select “vetted” opposition forces on the ground and provide them with cheaper, Soviet-style weapons.

Legally, however, shipments like the ones that started flowing to groups in Syria are supposed to include information on the end-user of the weapons. Instead, according to the report, the Defense Department decided to allow the transfer of equipment to any army or militia it provides security assistance to — including Syrian rebels — without any clear documentation.

A Pentagon spokesman quoted in the report said the department monitored the usage of the equipment to ensure compliance. In comments to FP, spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway re-emphasized that, saying that the Pentagon “carries out end-use monitoring of issued equipment.” He also said that the the department’s primary objective was to provide equipment that was simple and easy to operate so that partner forces could quickly secure and hold territory retaken from the Islamic State.

Hillary Clinton

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ny times logoNew York Times, Hillary Clinton Opens Up About ‘What Happened,’ With Candor, Defiance and Dark Humor, Jennifer Senior, Sept. 12, 2017. What Happened is not one book, but many. It is a candid and blackly funny account of her mood in the direct aftermath of losing to Donald J. Trump. It is a post-mortem, in which she is both coroner and corpse.

It is a feminist manifesto. It is a score-settling jubilee. It is a rant against James B. Comey, Bernie Sanders, the media, James B. Comey, Vladimir Putin and James B. Comey. It is a primer on Russian spying. It is a thumping of Trump. (“I sometimes wonder: If you add together his time spent on golf, Twitter and cable news,” she writes, “what’s left?”)

hillary clinton campaign logoIt is worth reading. Winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million may not have been enough to shatter the country’s highest, hardest glass ceiling. But it seems to have put 2,864,974 extra cracks in Clinton’s reserve.

In the run-up to the publication of this book, Democrats have been privately expressing their dread, fearing it will be a distraction and reopen old wounds.

I wonder if, after reading it, they will feel otherwise. Are there moments when “What Happened” is wearying, canned and disingenuous, spinning events like a top? Yes. Does it offer any new hypotheses about what doomed Clinton’s campaign? No.

In the run-up to the publication of this book, Democrats have been privately expressing their dread, fearing it will be a distraction and reopen old wounds. I wonder if, after reading it, they will feel otherwise. Are there moments when “What Happened” is wearying, canned and disingenuous, spinning events like a top? Yes. Does it offer any new hypotheses about what doomed Clinton’s campaign? No. It merely synthesizes old ones

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Washington Post, Mayor of Seattle resigns amid growing child sex abuse allegations, Andrew deGrandpre​, Sept.12, 2017. Ed Murray (D), who has denied the accusations, announced his resignation hours after the Seattle Times reported allegations that he sexually abused a cousin in the 1970s. Four other men have publicly accused Murray of sexual assault, the Times reported.

The announcement comes just hours after the Seattle Times reported new allegations that Murray, 62, sexually abused a relative in the 1970s. That relative, a cousin, was the fifth man to publicly accuse the mayor of sexual assault, the newspaper reported.

Murray continues to deny the accusations. But Murray, a nationally known champion of gay rights and progressive causes, had resisted calls to resign.

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Washington Post, Middle-class incomes rise, but Census report shows worrying disparities, Heather Long, Sept. 12, 2017.  The incomes of middle-class Americans rose last year to the highest level ever recorded by the Census Bureau, as poverty declined and the scars of the past decade’s Great Recession seemed to finally fade. 

cory chase SmallHuffington Post, Porn Star In Randy Video ‘Liked’ By Ted Cruz Wishes He Paid For It,.David Moye, Sept. 12, 2017. The actress who starred in the porn video liked by Ted Cruz’ Twitter account has harsh words for the Texas Senator. “I didn’t like that he watched it for free,” Cory Chase (shown in a photo) told HuffPost.

Cruz denied that he was responsible for the incident, blaming the issue on a “staffing issue.” The clip in question was a two-minute, 20-second snippet from a scene the 36-year-old filmed a year ago for “Moms Bang Teens 20.” A twitter page called Sexuall Posts posted the video and it was liked on Monday night by Cruz’ Twitter page. The New York Post noted that Chase bears a slight resemblance to Cruz’ wife, Heidi.

 Global News: Syrian War

bashar assad asma assad twitterSyrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma Assad, last month, shown above via a Twitter photo.

Haaretz (Israel), Analysis: Why Syria Hasn't Retaliated to the Alleged Israeli Strike, Amos Harel, Sept. 12, 2017. Syria and allies practice restraint after alleged Israeli attack on missile plant. The strike was different from earlier ones attributed to Israel, which targeted weapons convoys intended for Hezbollah or the makeshift arsenals in which those weapons were kept. This time the bombed site was a large, permanent facility clearly identified with the Assad regime.

It appears, however, that the timing isn’t convenient for sabre rattling by the Assad regime and its supporters. The regime scored an important victory last week when the Syrian army and Shi’ite militias took over Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria and drove out Islamic State fighters.

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SouthFront, Russian Defense Minister Visits Damascus For Meeting With President Assad, Staff report, Sept. 12, 2017. Syrian President Bashar Assad held a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday. The two are shown in a photo released via Assad's Twitter account. According to TASS, “The sides discussed current issues of military technical cooperation in the context of successful actions of Syrian government forces with the backing of the Russian aerospace force to exterminate the terrorist group Islamic State [ISIS] in Syria."

FBI Quizzes DC-Based Former Reporter For Russian News Service

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Haaretz, FBI Probing White House-accredited Sputnik News for Being Kremlin Propaganda Arm, Staff report, Sept. 12, 2017. Kremlin says move shows United States is imposing press censorship; bureau is investigating whether Sputnik is violating 1938 act introduced to counter Nazi propagandaHaaretz The FBI is investigating whether the Russian news agency Sputnik is acting as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, Yahoo News reported on Monday.

In response, a Kremlin spokesperson said the move smacked of censorship.

The bureau recently quizzed the Russian agency's former White House correspondent, Andrew Feinberg, over concerns that Sputnik is violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) – which says foreign groups trying to influence U.S. public opinion must inform the Justice Department about their funding and operations. The law was introduced in the United States in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II in Europe, as a way of countering Nazi propaganda.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted on Sputnik as saying that "interrogations of journalists or ex-journalists in connection with journalistic activities certainly do not speak in favor of pluralism of opinion and freedom of the press." Yahoo News revealed Monday that the FBI received a "thumb drive containing thousands of internal Sputnik emails and documents" from Feinberg, "who had downloaded the material onto his laptop before he was fired in May."

ny times logoNew York Times, The Newest Ambassador in Washington: A Saudi Prince, Katie Rogers, Sept. 12, 2017. Prince Khalid bin Salman will rely on his royal status to promote Saudi Arabia’s interests in Washington, but his track record is unproven. Prince Khalid is the 28-year-old son of the Saudi king and younger brother of the presumed future monarch, and a former fighter pilot with little diplomatic experience. Not much of the nine years he spent as an officer in the Royal Saudi Air Force translates to representing his country’s interests in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, South Korea Plans ‘Decapitation Unit’ to Try to Scare North’s Leaders, Choe Sang Hun, Sept. 12, 2017. The last time South Korea is known to have plotted to assassinate the North Korean leadership, nothing went as planned. In the late 1960s, after North Korean commandoes tried to ransack the presidential palace in Seoul, South Korea secretly trained misfits plucked from prison or off the streets to sneak into North Korea and slit the throat of its leader, Kim Il-sung. When the mission was aborted, the men mutinied.

Now, as Mr. Kim’s grandson, Kim Jong-un, accelerates his nuclear missile program, South Korea is again targeting the North’s leadership. A day after North Korea conducted its sixth — and by far most powerful — nuclear test this month, the South Korean defense minister, Song Young-moo, told lawmakers in Seoul that a special forces brigade defense officials described as a “decapitation unit” would be established by the end of the year.

Defense officials said the unit could conduct cross-border raids with retooled helicopters and transport planes that could penetrate North Korea at night.

Rarely does a government announce a strategy to assassinate a head of state, but South Korea wants to keep the North on edge and nervous about the consequences of further developing its nuclear arsenal.

 WhoWhatWhy, The Murder of John Kennedy’s Mistress, Part 1, Peter Janney, Sept. 12, 2017. On October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite, went for her usual jog along the Potomac River in a fairly deserted section of Washington DC and, for no apparent reason, she was shot twice at close range. She was neither raped nor robbed.

A witness, who heard screaming and shots ran to an embankment overlooking the scene, arrived in time to see a black man standing over Meyer’s body. He said the man stared at the woman for a bit, then put a dark object in his pocket, presumably a gun, and calmly walked away. The witness, Henry Wiggins Jr., saw the gunman from a distance of 128.6 feet, and described him as a “negro” who was 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 185 pounds

Sept. 11

 

paul craig roberts head sternOpEdNews, 16th Anniversary of 9/11 Brings New Development, Paul Craig Roberts (shown at right), Sept. 11, 2017. Dr. Leroy Hulsey, a distinguished engineering authority presented his team’s preliminary report report on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7. The report is preliminary in the sense that it awaits peer-review, that is, examination by other experts. The team’s research is more extensive than the modeling provided by NIST and includes a thorough examination of NIST’s approach.

Dr. Hulsey’s team concludes that Buillding 7 did not come down due to fire. Here is the URL to his presentation. Being a Georgia Tech graduate I can follow the gist of Dr. Hulsey’s presentation. It is a difficult explanation to follow as engineering science is challenging to explain. Moreover, engineers are accustomed to talking to other engineers, not to the general public. Hulsey is shown in a Justice Integrity Project file photo.

leroy hulseyIMG 2188 SmallNevertheless, it is possible to grasp that the NIST simulation of the collapse ignored three structural elements that actually existed in the building, and the presence of these structural elements make NIST’s conclusion invalid. The second part of the study will explain what actualy caused the collapse of Building 7. As I understand it, the team is waiting for professional responses to their conclusion that fire was not the reason.

As the report is a scientific presentation, it cannot be branded a conspiracy theory. Therefore, the media will most likely ignore it, especially as they will find it intellectually challenging.

Prominent judge Retires, Decries Injustice

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New York Times, An Exit Interview With Richard Posner, Judicial Provocateur, Adam Liptak, Sept. 11, 2017. Judge Richard A. Posner, whose restless intellect, withering candor and superhuman output made him among the most provocative figures in American law in the last half-century, recently announced his retirement. The move was abrupt, and I called him up to ask what had prompted it.

“About six months ago,” Judge Posner said, “I awoke from a slumber of 35 years.” He had suddenly realized, he said, that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it. For starters, as is his habit when his interest alights on a fresh topic, he wrote a book on the subject. Judge Posner (shown in a file photo) blurts out books at a comic pace.

“I realized, in the course of that, that I had really lost interest in the cases,” he said. “And then I started asking myself, what kind of person wants to have the same identical job for 35 years? And I decided 35 years is plenty. It’s too much. Why didn’t I quit 10 years ago? I’ve written 3,300-plus judicial opinions.”

He is 78 and had been a judge since 1981, when President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago. Before that, he was a prominent law professor who was among the leading figures in the movement to analyze legal problems using economics. In emphasizing social utility over, say, principles of fairness and equality, he gained a reputation as a cold, calculating conservative.

That changed over time, and his recent opinions on voter ID laws, abortion, same-sex marriage and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation have been decidedly liberal.

I asked him about his critics, and he said they fell into two camps.

Some, he said, simply have a different view of the proper role of the judge. “There is a very strong formalist tradition in the law,” he said, summarizing it as: “Judges are simply applying rules, and the rules come from somewhere else, like the Constitution, and the Constitution is sacred. And statutes, unless they’re unconstitutional, are sacred also.”

Courts, Cops, Prisons

rod blagojevich 2017NBC 5 Exclusive: Blagojevich Breaks Silence From Prison, Phil Rogers, Sept. 11, 2017. After more than five years in prison, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich spoke to NBC 5 in his first television interview, revealing details of his life, his family and his hopes for freedom.

Blagojevich (shown in a shot this year by prison personnel) is now housed in the “camp” at the Colorado prison, a lower-security facility where he enjoys more freedom. But he still faces the balance of a 14-year sentence and a scheduled release date in 2024.

“Do you realize, I have twice been given a longer prison sentence than Al Capone?” he says. “I’ve been given a prison sentence by the same judge who gave a mafia hit man...he acknowledged under oath, a contract killer, my judge gave me a longer sentence than him!”

Blagojevich is correct. And he drew that 14-year sentence in a case where the government was never able to prove that he took any money. Still, his case achieved worldwide notoriety, branding Blagojevich as a virtual poster child for political corruption. And the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago is preparing to vigorously fight still another Blagojevich appeal.

“All I’m asking for is -- apply the law,” he says. “And if you apply the right law, I didn’t cross the line.”

The former governor’s 14-year sentence came as the result of two criminal trials, two appeals, and one abortive trip to the Supreme Court. Out of all of those, he did manage to get five counts dropped from his convictions. But his sentence was not shortened. And now he is preparing a second trip to the nation’s highest court, insisting that everyone up to this point has gotten it wrong.

Now, Blagojevich is once again hoping that the Supreme Court will listen as he essentially asks them to use his case to clarify when a politician steps over the line in fundraising. Because, he insists, he always stayed on the right side of that line. And those who prosecuted his case got it wrong.

The result, after two criminal trials, was a sentence which is one of the longest ever levied against a politician in America. Blagojevich and his legal team point to other notable cases where there were much smaller penalties: former governor George Ryan did only 6 and a half years; many other governors in other states who were convicted of taking money or accepting lucrative favors have done fewer than two years in prison.

Hurricane Update

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New York Times, Flooding and Power Failures May Plague State for Weeks, Alexander Burns, Sept. 11, 2017. Downgraded to a tropical depression, Irma left Florida in shambles as it moved into Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. In the Florida Keys, the damage was so extensive that it might be necessary to evacuate 10,000 residents who rode out the storm.

President Donald Trump official

Los Angeles Times, After an earthquake and a hurricane — and Trump's failure to send condolences — Mexico rescinds aid offer to U.S., Kate Linthicum, Sept. 11, 2017. Trump’s silence as the earthquake death toll climbed was widely seen here as another sign of Trump’s cool attitude toward Mexico. Mexico on Monday withdrew its offer of aid to the United States to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, saying those resources are now needed at home as Mexico recovers from a separate hurricane and a devastating earthquake.

Last month, as Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston with days of record-breaking rains, Mexico issued a statement offering to send food, generators and medical aid to Texas “as good neighbors should always do in trying times.”

Mexico offered help even as President Trump was attacking the country on Twitter, calling Mexico “one of the highest crime nations in the world” and reiterating his claim that Mexico will pay for construction of a border wall between the two nations. While Trump never responded to Mexico’s offer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state would accept the country’s aid.

In a statement released Monday, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said that aid is now being redirected to care for Mexican families and communities still reeling from the recent one-two punch of natural disasters that struck the nation. At least 95 people died in Thursday’s magnitude 8.1 earthquake, according to the Foreign Ministry, most of them in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. While aid has arrived in many of the hardest-hit regions, where thousands of homes were reduced to rubble, local media have reported that in some places, survivors are still waiting for help.

Trump Staffing Fallout

washington post logosteve bannon heritage foundationWashington Post, Bannon declares war with Republican leadership in Congress, Ashley Parker, Sept. 11, 2017 (print edition). In his first interview since leaving the White House, Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo) came down hard on congressional leaders and criticized members of the administration he believed had displayed disloyalty to President Trump.

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Washington Post, Irma weakens to tropical storm but still threatens Florida, Scott Unger, Patricia Sullivan and Mark Berman​, Sept. 11, 2017. System takes aim at Panhandle as residents contend with storm surges, no power. Irma churned over vulnerable Tampa overnight after causing rapidly rising water levels in Naples and along Florida’s Gulf Coast, while also triggering tornadoes and flooding in Miami on the state’s opposite coast. More than 6.2 million customers, more than half of the state, were without power this morning.

betsy devos oBaltimoreBrew.com, Schmoke’s cousin, Julian Schmoke, recently tapped by Trump Administration for Education Department job,  Fern Shen and Louis Krauss, Sept. 11, 2017. The DeVos commencement invite had nothing to do with the feds’ selection of the former for-profit college dean, Kurt Schmoke says.

University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke – whose invitation to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (shown above in an an official photo) to speak at fall commencement ceremonies has ignited campus outrage – has a family connection to the Trump-era Education Department. His cousin Julian Schmoke Jr. was recently selected to lead the Department’s Student Aid Enforcement Unit.

julian schmoke cropped

Speaking with The Brew, Schmoke confirmed that Julian Schmoke, a former dean of the for-profit DeVry University, is his first cousin. Julian Schmoke Jr., a former dean at DeVry University, which agreed to a $100 million federal settlement last year resulting from allegations it misled students about their job prospects.

 But Schmoke said he did not know his cousin was taking a job with the U.S. Education Department when he wrote to DeVos in January to invite her to speak at the University of Baltimore’s fall commencement.

“Yes, he is my first cousin,” Schmoke said. “But I had no idea he was applying for the job until July of this year when I heard about it from him at a family gathering,”

Schmoke said the DeVos invitation had no connection to his cousin’s federal appointment and that he invited DeVos because a speech from the nation’s top education official would be relevant and interesting.

“I believe having the U.S. Secretary of Education deliver a commencement speech for your university is a benefit to the university,” he said.About 200 people gathered at the University of Baltimore to to protest the invitation of U.S. Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos to speak at commencement exercises. (Louis Krauss)

The appointment of Julian Schmoke Jr. by the Trump Administration, first reported last month by Politico, prompted harsh criticism from many education advocates and Congressional Democrats.

In his Education Department role, Schmoke will be heading an agency established by the Obama administration to more aggressively combat fraud and deceptive practices at colleges and universities.

Meanwhile DeVry, where Schmoke was an administrator from 2008 to 2012, recently settled several claims brought against it by regulators alleging it had engaged in some of the same abuses Schmoke’s unit is charged with eliminating. “DeVry’s parent company, which has since rebranded as Adtalem Global Education, last year agreed to pay $100 million to resolve allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that the for-profit college company misled students about their job and salary prospects,” according to Politico.

Robert Parry

Consortium News, Has the NYT Gone Collectively Mad? Robert Parry (shown in file photo), Sept. 11, 2017. Crossing a line from recklessness into madness, The New York Times published a front-page opus suggesting that Russia was behind social media criticism of Hillary Clinton. For those of us who have taught journalism or worked as editors, a sign that an article is the product of sloppy or dishonest journalism is that a key point will be declared as flat fact when it is unproven or a point in serious dispute – and it then becomes the foundation for other claims, building a story like a high-rise constructed on sand.

This use of speculation as fact is something to guard against particularly in the work of inexperienced or opinionated reporters. But what happens when this sort of unprofessional work tops page one of The New York Times one day as a major “investigative” article and reemerges the next in even more strident form as a major Times editorial? Are we dealing then with an inept journalist who got carried away with his thesis or are we facing institutional corruption or even a collective madness driven by ideological fervor?

Critic Slams Media 'Elites'

daily howler wolfDaily Howler, Postcards from the ledge, Bob Somerby, Sept. 11, 2017. Are our major journalists, and our liberal professors, actually rational actors? As a starting point in our search, consider Connie Schultz's review of Sally Quinn's new book. Sally Quinn’s hexes, marital ultimatums and visceral love of her son.

The review appeared in yesterday's Washington Post. Quinn has written a personal memoir about her life with her husband, the late Ben Bradlee. Also, about her life before she met Bradlee — and about the several people she seems to believe that she has killed through the use of hexes!

Yes, you read that correctly! According to Schultz, Quinn seems to claim that she and her mother have dispatched at least five people through this ancient art.

In the second half of her review, Schultz discusses other unlovely-sounding aspects of Quinn's memoir. The growing role of wealth and fame in these preserves only makes matters worse. Did we mention the fact that Quinn's summer home went for $20 million? Our society is currently floundering badly. Does this mess possibly start at the top, among a relatively wide range of hapless, disordered elites?

Global News: Syria

Moon of Alabama, Syria Summary: A New Clash Looms in Syria's East, B, Sept. 11, 2017. When the Islamic State siege on Deir Ezzor was broken by the Syrian Arab Army we asked: "Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?"

American Flag

It is now obvious that the SAA will bridge the river (all regular bridges have been destroyed by U.S. bombing) and send significant forces across. New questions now are: When, where and with what aim?

As soon as the government intent became clear the U.S. pushed its local proxy forces to immediately snatch the ISIS-held oilfields. In less than two days, they deployed over 30 kilometers deep into the ISIS held areas north of the Euphrates. It is obvious that such progress could not have been made if ISIS had defended itself. I find it likely that a deal has been made between those two sides.

Global News: Saudis, Israelis

Zero Hedge, Breaking News of Saudi Crown Prince's "Secret" Visit To Israel Brings Embassy Scramble, Tyler Durden, Sept 11, 2017. Clearly the war in Syria and the international push for regime change against Assad has created strange alliances in the Middle East over the past few years. Among the strangest bedfellows are the Israelis and Saudis.

Last Wednesday (9/6) Israel's state funded Kol Yisrael radio service made cryptic reference to the "secret" yet historic visit while withholding names and specifics. Oon Sunday reports began to emerge that the unidentified Saudi royal in question is no less than Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, which would indeed be shocking news....

 Freed Former Gov. Siegelman Continues Legal Fight

don siegelman mike papantonio rtMike Papantonio and Don Siegelman

Legal Schnauzer, Evidence from pending FOIA case could give Don Siegelman ammunition to file civil RICO case against GOP thugs, Roger Shuler, Sept. 11, 2017. A pending federal lawsuit involving Don Siegelman could yield information for a civil racketeering case against major government figures who allegedly conspired to prosecute the former Alabama governor for political reasons. Siegelman raised the issue during an interview last week with Mike Papantonio, a prominent, Florida-based attorney and host of America's Lawyer on RT America.

To our knowledge, this was the first time Siegelman has discussed possible legal remedies to hold accountable those who caused him to be incarcerated for six-plus years, in what generally is considered the most notorious political prosecution in American history. (Video of the interview is embedded at the end of this post.)

Siegelman raised the possibility of a lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Congress passed the RICO Act in 1970 as a way to fight Mafia groups. The law has evolved to include actions against a variety of organizations, from corrupt police departments to motorcycle gangs. RICO allows for both criminal prosecutions and civil remedies for victims.

The general five-year federal statute of limitations likely would preclude criminal prosecutions in the Siegelman matter. But there might not be a limitations bar on a civil complaint because the government has stonewalled for more than 10 years on the former governor's efforts to obtain evidence about prosecutorial misconduct in his case via the Freedom of Information Act. (FOIA).

Joseph Siegelman, the former governor's son, is leading the latest FOIA effort, and that case is pending in the Northern District of Alabama before U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala. Public records indicate the government has turned over at least some of the documents Siegelman has sought for more than a decade, especially those involving the alleged failure of former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary to recuse from the case.

Sept. 10

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Washington Post, Storm weakens to Category 2 after making second Florida landfall, Perry Stein, Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery, Sept. 10, 2017.  Irma first breached the coast Sunday morning in the lower Keys and it again came ashore in the afternoon over Marco Island. Even as the storm was downgraded, forecasters warned of “life-threatening” storm surge as it approached the Tampa Bay area. The storm caused more than 2 million power outages across South Florida, lashing major population centers with driving rain and fierce winds.

JFK Facts.org, Top 4 revelations from the new JFK files, Jefferson Morley, Sept. 10, 2017. The release of long-secret JFK assassination files by the National Archives has drawn the attention of news organizations nationwide. Four revelations stand out so far.

Collectively, the new JFK files pour more cold water on the “KGB did it” conspiracy theory, while encouraging questions about the “Castro done it’ theory. Mostly, the new files illuminate how the CIA resisted investigation of Oswald after JFK was killed, and why the public, and CIA officials themselves, came to reject the official theory of a lone gunman.

Officials of the National Archives have told AlterNet they will release thousands of pages of additional secret JFK records before October 26.

Media: Sally Quinn's Memoir

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Washington Post, Sally Quinn’s hexes, marital ultimatums and visceral love of her son, Connie Schultz, Sept. 8, 2017. Had Sally Quinn stayed true to the promise of her book’s whimsical title, Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir, she might have led readers on a journey of self-exploration as she shared her stories of hope and the many faces of faith in the aftermath of despair.

Quinn, who was married to former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee until his death in 2014, is a grieving widow and devoted mother to a son who has known many challenges, and her writing about these most important relationships in her life hints at the depth and breadth of her investigation of human suffering and renewal. Unfortunately, we have to gallop across a bizarre terrain to get there.

Sept. 9

pogo logo squareProject on Government Oversight, Slave Labor Widespread at ICE Detention Centers, Lawyers Say, Mia Steinle, Sept. 9, 2017. Not all detention centers offer the voluntary work program, but those that do are supposed to follow certain guidelines. Several lawsuits recently filed by detainees allege that detention centers do not always follow all of these guidelines.

What types of jobs do detainees do? ICE detention standards do not specify what types of jobs detainees can perform. Instead, they offer a guideline: “Essential operations and services shall be enhanced through detainee productivity.” Sources who spoke to POGO said that common detainee jobs include cooking, cleaning, gardening, doing laundry, and cutting hair.

How much are detainees paid? Detainees are supposed to be paid at least $1 per day. There is no cap. According to Jacqueline Stevens of the Deportation Research Clinic, some detainees are paid up to $3 per day.

How many hours do they work? Detainees are not supposed to work more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week.

Is all detainee work voluntary? As its name implies, the voluntary work program is meant to be voluntary. Separate from the voluntary work program, all detainees are required to keep their immediate living areas clean. These tasks include making their beds daily, cleaning up clutter, and “stacking loose papers.” These are not paid tasks.

What safety protections do detainees have? The voluntary work program is supposed to comply with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, as well as various commonly adopted fire and safety standards that are not law.

Global News

Robert Parry

Consortium News, Echoes of Iraq-WMD Fraud in Syria, Robert Parry, Sept. 10, 2017. Just as the West ignored signs in 2002-03 that anti-government Iraqis were fabricating WMD claims, evidence is being brushed aside that Syrian jihadists have ginned up chemical attacks. Given the history, skepticism should be the rule in Syria, not credulity. Or, as President George W. Bush once said in a different context, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry (shown above right) broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is "America’s Stolen Narrative.".

Haaretz (Israel), Soros and Reptilians Controlling the World: Yair Netanyahu Posts Meme Rife With anti-Semitic Themes, staff reported, Sept. 9, 2017. Ex-KKK leader David Duke comes to the defense of Prime Minister Netanyahu's son after he posts a meme that suggests a conspiracy is behind his family's growing legal problems. Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, posted a meme on his Facebook page on Saturday that seemed to suggest a conspiracy is behind his family's growing legal problems. The image was laden with anti-Semitic imagery.

abu muhammad al shimali isis deir ezzorSouthFront, ISIS ‘Deir Ezzor Emir’ Killed By Russian Airstrike Near Raqqah Is Linked to 2015 Paris Attacks, Staff report, Sept. 9, 2017. On September 8, ISIS top commander in Deir Ezzor governorate “Abu-Muhammad al-Shimali“ was reportedly killed during a Russian airstrike on a terrorist bunker. Many European intelligence services believe that al-Shimali played a key role in the 2015 Paris attacks.

Al-Shimali (shown in a file photo) is the subject of a $5 million bounty by the United States Department of State Rewards for Justice Program, which said he is a key leader in ISIS’ Immigration and Logistics Committee that’s responsible for facilitating the travel of foreign terrorist fighters from and to Syria. He is an Iraqi-born citizen of Saudi Arabia .

Sept. 8

Storm News

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New York Times, Potent Storm Tears Through Caribbean, Puerto Rico Spared the Worst; Florida Braces for Direct Hit, Frances Robles, Kirk Semple and Vivian Yee, Sept. 8, 2017. Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, devastated the Caribbean. A St. Martin official said that “95 percent of the island is destroyed.” More than 60 percent of Puerto Rico households lost power. The storm has turned north and is on course to strike South Florida.

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Washington Post, Florida governor has ignored climate change risks, critics say, Brady Dennis and Darryl Fears, Sept. 9, 2017 (print edition). For all of Rick Scott’s vigor in readying Florida for Irma’s wrath, his administration has done little to prepare the state for what scientists say are the inevitable effects of climate change. Scott is shown in a file photo.

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Washington Post, Trump’s beachfront Mar-a-Lago Club ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Irma approaches, David A. Fahrenthold, Sept. 8, 2017. President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club — which Trump has christened the “Winter White House” — was ordered to evacuate on Friday, along with the rest of ritzy Palm Beach island, as Hurricane Irma's powerful winds and storm surge approached the Florida coast.The evacuation order went in place at 10 a.m. Friday, part of a series of orders that will require 155,000 people to leave their homes in Palm Beach County alone.

Federal Probes Of Trump, Russia

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Washington Post, Spicer, Priebus, Hicks among six current and former top White House aides Mueller will likely seek to interview, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Ashley Parker, Sept. 8, 2017. Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s interest in the aides reflects how the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election that has dogged Trump’s presidency is starting to penetrate a closer circle of aides around the president.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has alerted the White House that his team will probably seek to interview six top current and former advisers to President Trump who were witnesses to several episodes relevant to the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the request.

Mueller’s interest in the aides, including trusted adviser Hope Hicks, former press secretary Sean Spicer and former chief of staff Reince Priebus, reflects how the probe that has dogged Trump’s presidency is starting to penetrate a closer circle of aides around the president.

Justice Department log circularEach of the six advisers was privy to important internal discussions that have drawn the interest of Mueller’s investigators, including his decision in May to fire FBI Director James B. Comey and the White House’s initial inaction following warnings that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had withheld information from the public about his private discussions in December with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, according to people familiar with the probe.

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facebook logoNew York Times, The Fake Americans That Russia Created to Sway the Election, Scott Shane, Sept. 8, 2017 (print edition). Posing as ordinary citizens on Facebook and building “warlists” of Twitter accounts, suspected Russian agents intervened last year in the American democratic process.

DC Leaks 'Melvin Redick' Facebook message during 2016 presidential campaign

DC Leaks 'Melvin Redick' Facebook message during 2016 presidential campaign

Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

“These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US,” he wrote on June 8, 2016. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.

hope hicks strategic communications directorPalmer Report, Robert Mueller targets Donald Trump’s favorite adviser Hope Hicks – and it’s going to be ugly, Bill Palmer, Sept. 8, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is targeting six current and former White House staffers who were a part of Donald Trump’s plot to cover up the true nature of his son’s meeting with the Russian government, according to a new Washington Post report (link).

Two of them are Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, who now have every motivation to flip on Trump in order to save themselves from any possible obstruction charges, after he disloyally pushed them both out of the White House in July. Mueller is also targeting Hope Hicks (shown above), who was also part of the conversation when Trump was plotting his son’s lies about Russia.

This is going to quickly get interesting for a few reasons. Trump has long kept Hicks close, and according to various reports, can’t function in the White House without her. She may be the only adviser Trump has left whom he likes and trusts, after having thrown most of the rest of them under the bus for various reasons. If Hicks does crack and begins talking to Mueller, the presumption is that she knows just about everything.

So the big question going forward is whether Hope Hicks will give up Donald Trump in order to avoid facing any criminal obstruction charges, or whether she’ll decide to stand her ground. Trump could offer to pardon her in exchange for her silence – but that would only raise even more questions about why Trump is willing to go so far to protect her.

Trump Foreign Policy

Roll Call, Senate Appropriators Reject Trump Administration’s ‘Apparent Doctrine of Retreat,’ Niels Lesniewski, Sept. 8, 2017. Unusually blunt committee report rebukes State Department, OMB, Senate appropriators are rejecting the Trump administration’s foreign policy, blasting what they call an “apparent doctrine of retreat.”

Appropriations Committee reports are not usually must-reads, but the report to accompany the next fiscal year’s State-Foreign Operations spending package might be the exception. The bill and report go beyond just dismissing the budget request.

“The lessons-learned since September 11, 2001, include the reality that defense alone does not provide for American strength and resolve abroad,” the report said. “Battlefield technology and firepower cannot replace diplomacy and development.” Senate appropriators are rejecting the Trump administration’s foreign policy, blasting what they call an “apparent doctrine of retreat.”

“The Office of Management and Budget arbitrarily set the topline funding level for the International Affairs budget without input from the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Security Council, or any other national security agency,” the committee report said. “This forced the Department of State and USAID to randomly establish country and program-level allocations that lacked any justification.”

Global News

Consortium News, Syria’s Survival Is Blow to Jihadists, Alastair Crooke, Sept. 8, 2017. Despite last-ditch efforts by Israel and its allies to salvage the “regime change” project in Syria, the looming defeat of the Western-backed jihadists marks a turning point in the modern Middle East, says ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke. Syria’s victory in remaining still standing – still on its feet, as it were – amid the ruins of all that has been visited upon her, marks effectively the demise of the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East (of “the New Middle East”).

Zero Hedge via Ron Paul Institute, Opinion from Libertarian Right: Israel Launches Air Strikes On Syria And Assad's Waiting Game,' Tyler Durden, Sept. 8, 2017. Immediately after Israel's latest unprovoked strike on Syria we posed the question, did Benjamin Netanyahu just panic? The answer is yes, Israel is now acting from a position of desperation as it has failed in its goal of regime change in Syria.

Israel appears to have timed its attack to occur on the very night a controversial U.N. report was released earlier in the day (Wednesday) which blames the Assad government for using chemical weapons against civilians at Khan Sheikhoun in April. A number of Israeli analysts and media reports purport the Masyaf base to be a site for chemical and non-conventional weapons storage (such as "barrel bombs") while claiming the attack was motivated by "humanitarian" concern for Syrian civilians.

But this is the reason for Israeli media and defense officials quickly claiming that the strike at Masyaf was on a chemical weapons facility: they know the "humanitarian" angle sells in the West, especially when coupled with allegations of civilians being gassed. Currently, this is putting the dubious and contested claim that the Syrian government attacked Khan Sheikhoun with sarin gas back in the spotlight at a time when Israel is eager to sell war for regime change while casting its actions in terms of protecting and defending civilians from a brutal dictator. 

Ron Paul Institute, Opinion from Libertarian Right: The Bombast of Nikki Haley, Justin Raimondo, Sept. 8, 2017. How Nikki Haley got her job as UN ambassador, and a major foreign policy spokesperson for the Trump administration, is a mystery, at least to me. Her vicious personal attacks on Trump when he was a candidate should’ve ruled her out from the get-go. Where oh where is Trump’s vaunted vindictiveness and alleged “narcissism” when we need it? Whereas Obama’s appointments were characterized as a “team of rivals,” Trump’s may rightly be considered a team of enemies.

As Governor of South Carolina, and a member of that state’s House of Representatives, Haley’s foreign policy experience is absolutely nil. Nor does her degree in accounting from Clemson University inspire confidence. Her record thus far has consisted of giving voice to the neoconservative tendency in the GOP – the very people Trump defeated in the GOP primaries.

Haley’s amalgam of innuendo – Iran, she avers, is secretly violating the deal, although she provides us with no evidence – historical revisionism, and outright absurdity is not aimed at Iran, or the international community. Like most foreign policy pronouncements of this – or any other – administration, it’s meant for domestic consumption.

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Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterWashington Post, Israel’s ‘meals’ scandal moves closer toward indictment of Netanyahu’s wife, Ruth Eglash, Sept. 8, 2017. Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown at right), is likely to be indicted on fraud-related charges in a case that peers into spending on catered meals and lifestyle in the official residence, a statement by Israel’s attorney general said Friday.

The probe — called the “meals ordering affair” — alleges that the prime minister’s wife and the head of the operational resources unit in the official residence falsified documents so that food from outside companies and private chefs could be used, even though there was a full-time chef. Netanyahu is suspected of diverting some $102,000 in public funds for this use.

Both during Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and since taking office in 2009, his wife has come under scrutiny for her perceived opulent lifestyle, often being portrayed by the local media as a kind of Marie Antoinette.

Sept. 7

Hurricane News

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New York Times, Caribbean Is Struck With Terrifying Force, Frances Robles, Kirk Semple and Richard Pérez-Peña, Sept. 7, 2017. Several Islands Suffer Direct Hits by 185-M.P.H. Winds. Already one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, Hurricane Irma could become one of the most destructive as well. As it roars toward Turks and Caicos and parts of the Bahamas, the storm surge could put large parts of the islands under water.

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New York Times, Hurricane Irma Makes Landfall in Caribbean at Record Strength, Ivelisse Rivera and Lizette Alvarez, Sept. 7, 2017 (print edition). Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded, hit Barbuda as a Category 5 storm with winds of up to 185 m.p.h. as it headed toward Puerto Rico.

Washington News

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Charles Schumer (D-NY) dmcaWashington Post, Trump and Schumer agree to pursue plan to repeal the debt ceiling, Damian Paletta and Ashley Parker, Sept. 7, 2017. President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (shown in a file photo) agreed to pursue a deal that would permanently remove the requirement that Congress repeatedly raise the debt ceiling. Senate Democrats hope to finalize an arrangement with Trump by December.

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New York Times, Trump Backs Democrats to Seal Stopgap Budget Deal, Peter Baker, Thomas Kaplan and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 7, 2017. (print edition). Congressional Republicans reluctantly agreed to extend government funding and raise the debt ceiling until December. The deal sets up a year-end fiscal showdown.

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New York Times, Trump’s Deal Is a Nightmare Come True for the G.O.P., Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 7, 2017 (print edition). The president’s move further destabilized a volatile situation for his party, which many Republicans now believe is headed toward a reckoning it can no longer avoid.

nancy pelosi chuck schumer noel st john feb 27 2017If Mr. Trump’s agreement with the two Democratic leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi, (shown in file photo by Noel St. John) to increase the debt limit and finance the government for three months did not yet represent the breaking point between the president and his core, hard-right base of support, it certainly put him closer than he has ever been to tipping his fragile political coalition into open revolt.

Stunned and irate, conservative leaders denounced news that Mr. Trump had agreed to rely on Democratic votes to win congressional approval for a temporary extension of the debt ceiling and funding of the government until mid-December.

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Washington Post, Data of 143 million Americans potentially exposed in hack of credit reporting agency Equifax, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Sept. 7, 2017. The breach, which began in May and was discovered in July, gave hackers access to files that included sensitive personal data such as Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses, the credit reporting agency said.

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Washington Post, Trump taps White House legal adviser to serve on high-profile D.C. Circuit court, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 7, 2017. If confirmed, Gregory Katsas would rule on important political cases involving executive power and government regulations. Gregory G. Katsas, whose nomination requires confirmation by the Senate, has served as Trump’s deputy legal counsel since March, held senior posts at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration and was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Probes of Trump-Russia

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facebook logoNew York Times, Facebook Says Russians May Have Bought Political Ads, Scott Shane and Vindu Goel, Sept. 7, 2017 (print edition). Fake accounts bought $100,000 in ads focused on divisive issues like race and immigration, Facebook said. The disclosure will very likely add to the skirmishing over Russia’s role in the election.

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Donald Trump Jr. Washington Post, Trump Jr. says nothing came of 2016 meeting with Russians, Tom Hamburger and Jonathan O'Connell, Sept. 7, 2017. The president’s son (shown at right) told the Senate panel that he consulted with a Russian lawyer because she offered information on Hillary Clinton.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Russ Baker on Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen: Consigliere or Stooge? Jeff Schechtman, Sept. 7, 2017 (podcast). Russ Baker talks about his deep profile of Trump-Russia connected lawyer Michael Cohen. In the original “Godfather” movie, Tom Hagen, the consigliere to the Corleone family, responds to a movie executive who has never heard of his law practice by saying “I have a special practice. I handle one client.” Vito Corleone reminds Hagen early on that “a lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”

Michael Cohen (July 14, 2015 on CNN)In many ways Michael Cohen (shown at right in a CNN screenshot) has served that role for Donald Trump. An undistinguished lawyer, his Russian and Ukrainian links from the earliest days of his career make him the perfect lawyer for Trump.

He became a kind of Trump groupie, admiring and fawning over Trump’s ghostwritten book, and buying more condos in Trump properties than almost anyone else. Unblushingly, he referred to Trump as his “patriarch.”

Hillary's New Book

hillary clinton what happened cover

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 Hillary ClintonNew York Times, Clinton, in Book, Regrets Not Striking Back at Comey, Mark Landler, Sept. 7, 2017. Not striking back after James B. Comey accused her of acting recklessly is just one in a long list of mistakes that Hillary Clinton lists in the election post-mortem, What Happened.

Prominent Jurist Resigns In Protest

richard posner SmallAbove the Law, The Backstory Behind Judge Richard Posner’s Retirement, David Lat, Sept. 7, 2017. Judge Posner (shown at right) had some very specific reasons for his surprise retirement from the bench.

In May, when I had lunch with Judge Richard Posner and his clerks in Chicago, the esteemed jurist was in fine form, as enjoyable a conversationalist as ever. In July — after he made controversial comments about aging federal judges, including a call for a mandatory retirement age of 80 — I asked him whether he’d apply that rule to himself. He kept his options open, telling me, “It will depend on how I feel [when I turn 80], both in terms of physical and particularly mental health and in terms of interest in the job.”

So like much of the legal world, I was taken by surprise when Judge Posner, currently 78, announced his retirement from the Seventh Circuit. He announced the news right before Labor Day weekend, and it took effect immediately.

And it’s a total retirement, not the usual move to senior status (a sort of quasi-retirement for federal judges), as I learned when we traded emails earlier this week. "And I’m not taking senior status; my departure is total. It has to do with fact that I don’t think the court is treating the pro se appellants fairly, and none of the other judges agrees with me (or rather, they don’t like the pro ses and don’t want to do anything with them, with occasional exceptions only)."

I wasn’t sure if Judge Posner’s comments on pro se litigants were fair game for public discussion — but now they are, thanks to this Chicago Daily Law Bulletin piece. 

Posner has long been concerned about the plight of pro se litigants. Back in 2015, for example, he benchslapped a trial judge for mistreating a pro se plaintiff. 

Sept. 6

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Washington Post, Trump sides with Democrats on debt ceiling, putting GOP in awkward spot, Mike DeBonis, Kelsey Snell and Elise Viebeck, Sept. 6, 2017. President Trump wants Congress to pass a three-month government spending bill and raise the debt ceiling for the same amount of time. Trump made his position clear at a White House meeting with congressional leaders.

The House approved $7.85 billion in Harvey relief, one of at least half a dozen must-pass items on Congress’s agenda this month. The House bill does not include language to raise the debt ceiling ahead of a late-September deadline, a relief to conservatives who oppose linking the two issues.

teresa jo burchfield mug croppedScandals

Daily Beast, Wife of Trump Organization Ethics Lawyer Arrested After Alleged Tryst With Inmate, Kelly Weill, Sept. 6, 2017.The wife of a lawyer in charge of overseeing ethics in President Trump’s business trust was arrested outside a Virginia jail—with an inmate in her backseat. The wife of a lawyer tasked with monitoring ethics in President Donald Trump’s business trust was arrested Tuesday afternoon after “suspicious” activity with a Virginia inmate in the backseat of a car outside a jail.

Teresa Jo Burchfield, 53, was outside Virginia’s Fauquier County Adult Detention Center when deputies charged her with a crime of her own. Burchfield (shown in a mug shot later) and an unnamed 23-year-old inmate were spotted in the backseat of a car, along with a bag of pills and other contraband items that Burchfield had allegedly given the inmate.

Burchfield’s husband, Bobby Burchfield, is an ethics advisor to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, an entity intended to keep Trump’s business and political ties separate. The inmate, who told police he and Burchfield had been having sex, also had other contraband items on his person, including cigarettes and vitamin supplements, according to the complaint. The inmate told investigators that he and Burchfield had been meeting for a month.

Burchfield’s husband is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association. He served on President George H.W.’s 1992 reelection campaign, worked for President George W. Bush during his 2000 effort to demand a vote recount, and later served on the younger Bush’s Antitrust Modernization Commission. He also chaired Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove’s Republican advocacy group, and testified before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Republican National Committee.

In January 2017, Trump named Bobby Burchfield as the outside ethics adviser to his Revocable Trust, a complicated entity that Trump’s lawyers have used to deflect scrutiny over Trump’s continued ties with his businesses. Teresa Burchfield was released on a $5,000 bond, court records show. She has been charged with unauthorized delivery in jail, a misdemeanor.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Congressman Tim Murphy issues statement on extramarital affair, Paula Reed Ward, Sept. 6, 2017. Congressman Tim Murphy publicly admitted Wednesday to having an extramarital affair with a personal friend, issuing a statement about the relationship hours after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette prevailed in a court motion to unseal a divorce action.

Tim MurphyMr. Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair (Pittsburgh suburbs), is not a party to the divorce. However, the husband in the case, Jesse Sally, a sports medicine physician, sought in July to depose the congressman as part of his divorce from Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist. Dorothy Wolbert, who represents Dr. Sally, said that the deposition is relevant to alimony requested by Ms. Edwards. (The congressman, shown in an official photo, won his eighth term in 2016 unopposed in a gerrymandered district.)

Dr. Sally alleges that the affair between his wife and Mr. Murphy began in February 2016.

Changing Media

breitbart logoBreitbart, 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose Joins Steve Bannon and Breitbart Crew at the ‘Embassy,’ Ian Mason, Sept. 6, 2017. CBS’s Charlie Rose was at the famed “Breitbart Embassy” in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to film a marquee segment for Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast, Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon hosted the living television news legend at his rowhouse headquarters in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, allowing 60 Minutes cameras unprecedented access.

Bannon gave Rose and his 60 Minutes crew an extended interview before joining Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow, Washington Political Editor Matthew Boyle, Breitbart London’s Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam, Deputy Political Editor Amanda House, Pentagon Correspondent Kristina Wong, and Defense Correspondent Edwin Mora for an editorial meeting, at which they were allowed to sit in.

Foreign Policy

alex wubbels utah nurse arrested

Ron Paul Institute, Opinion From Libertarian Right: What Michael Moore Gets Right and Wrong about the Police State, Adam Dick, Sept. 6, 2017.  Documentarian Michael Moore, in a Friday post at Twitter, linked to video of Alex Wubbels, a nurse at a Salt Lake City, Utah hospital, (shown above) being arrested for refusing to comply with a police demand that she draw blood from an unconscious patient at the hospital without first the patient consenting, the patient being arrested, or a warrant being issued.

While Moore admirably alerted people to what he termed the “authoritarian police state” in America and provided them with a vivid example of that police state in action, he clouded the issue by wrongly suggesting that the police state is a new creation caused by Donald Trump being president of the United States.

Sports Drama / Pop Culture

NBA.com, Isaiah Thomas opens up about trade, shows love for Boston in letter, Staff report, Sept. 6, 2017. The Boston Celtics officially parted ways with Isaiah Thomas a little more than a week ago, as the All-Star guard (and some other players) went to the Cleveland Cavaliers for fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving. Irving had his say about the trade in his news conference last week and now, Thomas is slowly starting to share his thoughts about it as well.

First came a video Thomas published on his Instagram account yesterday where he was working out in Cavs gear. Then, today, Thomas wrote a story for The Players' Tribune in which he gave much more detail about the trade, his affection for Boston, his future with Cleveland and more.

Ivanka Trumpbreitbart logoBreitbart, Report: Ivanka Trump Makes a Habit of ‘Dropping By’ High Profile Meetings, Ben Kew, Sept. 6, 2017. Since her father took office in January, first daughter Ivanka Trump has made a habit of “dropping by” high profile meetings involving President Trump and other senior officials, as well as media appearances, a report from CNN has detailed. The most recent example of Ivanka’s ‘drop-by’ was on Wednesday evening, during a meeting between Trump and Congressional leaders from both sides of the house, where she “entered the Oval Office to ‘say hello’ and the meeting careened off-topic.”

The report claims that Republican leaders, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were “visibly annoyed by Ivanka’s presence,” although Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong later refuted that claim. Meanwhile, a Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, claimed that Ivanka’s presence was so she could discuss child tax credits.

Sept. 5

'Dreamers' Dispute Roils DC

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President Donald Trump official

 Washington, Trump administration announces end of immigration protection program for ‘dreamers,’ David Nakamura, Sept. 5, 2017.  The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that allows younger undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation, calling the program unconstitutional but offering a partial delay to give Congress a chance to address the issue.

The decision, after weeks of intense deliberation between President Trump and his top advisers, represents a blow to hundreds of thousands of immigrants known as “dreamers” who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. But it also allows the White House to shift some of the pressure and burden of determining their future onto Congress, setting up a public fight over their legal status that is likely to be waged for months.

In announcing the decision at the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said former president Barack Obama, who started the program in 2012 through executive action, “sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.”

He called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny.

See earlier, related story: Washington Post, Political fight brews as Trump prepares to end protections for ‘dreamers,’ David Nakamura​, Sept. 5, 2017.  Urgency on Capitol Hill has mounted amid reports that President Trump will end the DACA program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 people to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

Korean Crisis

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New York Times, Kim Is ‘Begging for War,’ U.S. Says, Seeking Fuel Cutoff, David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, Sept. 5, 2017 (print edition). Nikki R. Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday at a Security Council meeting that “the time has come for us to exhaust all of our diplomatic means before it’s too late.”

Trump Crony Presides Over EPA Grants

scott pruitt epa o Custom

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

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Washington Post, Ex-Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience makes final call on EPA’s grants, Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 5, 2017 (print edition). The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the grants and awards it distributes. Nearly $2 million in awards, mostly on climate change, have been revoked since February.

Trump White House Plans, Politics

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Washington Post, Analysis: The chasm between Trump’s compassionate rhetoric and reality, James Hohmann, Sept. 5, 2017. President Trump's rhetoric hasn’t matched reality as he has repeatedly acceded to the wishes of his dwindling base.

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 Ivanka TrumpWashington Post, Opinion: Ivanka Trump has learned well from her father’s cons, Catherine Rampell, Sept. 5, 2017. Ivanka Trump is for working women the way her father is for the working class: In both cases, the Trumps really just want their money. President Trump’s daughter (shown in a file photo) built her brand around women’s “empowerment,” by which I mean monetizing the anxieties and insecurities of stressed-out moms.

History: Here and Now  uss liberty day after june 8 1967 attack

 philip giraldiUnz Review, The USS Liberty Wins One! The American Legion finally calls for a congressional inquiry, Philip Giraldi (shown at right), Sept. 5, 2017. On June 8th 1967 the United States Navy intelligence ship the U.S.S. Liberty was attacked in international waters by aircraft and vessels belonging to Israel. Thirty-four sailors, Marines and civilians were killed in the attack. The deliberate Israeli air and sea onslaught sought to sink the clearly identified intelligence gathering ship (show above, the day after the attack) and kill all its crew.

It was in truth the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault, which was clearly intended to destroy the intelligence gathering vessel operating in international waters collecting information on the ongoing fighting between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up so Egypt could be blamed, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with torpedo boats from the sea.

There followed more than thirty years of futility as Liberty survivors and veterans groups sought to reintroduce their demand for a proper inquiry as an active American Legion resolution, but the group’s National Executive exploited a number of stratagems to block every attempt to introduce a new resolution, including rejecting proposals in committee, changing convention rules and physically confronting and expelling those who objected. Indeed, the Legion’s executive did its best to drop the U.S.S. Liberty story down a memory hole.

So the attempt of the U.S.S. Liberty survivors and their supporters to get the American Legion on board for an inquiry seemed doomed to fail – until this year, the 50th anniversary of the attack. Whether Congress can be induced to do the right thing by the Liberty remains to be seen, but the adoption of the resolution was a major victory brought about by a confluence of factors as well as a lot of hard work on the part of the Liberty survivors and their supporters.

New Hurricane Threat

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Washington Post, Irma intensifies to Category 5 hurricane on its track toward U.S., Angela Fritz and Greg Porter​, Sept. 5, 2017. NOAA Hurricane Hunters found the storm’s maximum wind speeds at 175 mph. It now ranks among the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasts suggest it will reach southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.

Global News: Syria Breaks Siege Of Key IS-Held City

syria deir ezzor siege 9 5 17 sanaMoon of Alabama, Syria: The Liberation Of Deir Ezzor, B, Sept. 5, 2017. The Syrian army just broke the Islamic State siege on the city of Deir Ezzor and its military garrison. The siege had been held up since mid-2014. In a six-month long campaign, the SAA moved several hundred kilometers from the outskirts of Aleppo and Palmyra towards Deir Ezzor.

Syrian TV (SANA) showed the first joyful contact at the 137 brigades area, 15km from Deir Ezzor city center. Three axes, north, center and south drove the campaign through the semi-desert. One axis has now reached the areas held by the besieged troops while the spear tips of the other two are only a few kilometers away. 

Separately, a dramatic late goal by Syria's national team propelled it to a 2-2 tie in a qualifying match for next year's quadriennel World Cup. The goal is shown in a video here. Syria has never qualified for the World Cup, the world's most popular sporting event as measured by attendance.

AMN (Almasdarnews), Next phase of the Syrian Army’s Deir Ezzor offensive – the military airport, Leith Fadel, Sept. 5, 2017. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) lifted the 28-month-long siege on the Deir Ezzor Governorate this afternoon, following a two month long battle with the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) in eastern Syria.

While this is no doubt a remarkable achievement for the Syrian Army, it is only a small glimpse into the battle that awaits them as they push deeper into the Deir Ezzor Governorate. In particular, the next phase of the Syrian Arab Army’s offensive will concentrate on lifting the siege imposed by the Islamic State on the Deir Ezzor Military Airport.

Unlike the siege on the city, the Syrian Arab Army will not have the luxury of pushing through several kilometers of desert landscape to reach the provincial capital. Instead, they will have to fight the Islamic State in the heavily fortified Thardeh Mountains that overlook the Deir Ezzor Airport from its western perimeter.Liberating the Thardeh Mountains will be no easy task, given the large number of Islamic State terrorists that are present between this mountaintop and the Panorama area.

However, with air assistance from the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Arab Army should eventually break-through the Islamic State’s lines to retake the Thardeh Mountains. The Thardeh Mountains were previously under the control of the Syrian Arab Army until October 2016, when the U.S. Coalition ‘accidentally’ bombed the latter, killing over 100 soldiers and forcing the remaining military personnel to withdraw to the airport.

Global News: Russian Rebuke

Russian President Vladimir Putin with U.S. President Trump at G-20 Summi (July 8, 2017)  (White House screenshot)hot

President Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin July 8, 2017 (screenshot from White House video at G20 Summit)

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Washington Post, Putin lashes out at U.S. over consulate seizure as diplomatic row widens, Andrew Roth​, Sept. 5, 2017. Amid diplomatic row, Putin denies disappointment with Trump: He ‘is not my bride. I am not his bride, nor his groom.’ In biting and sometimes caustic remarks, Russian President Vladimir Putin waded into Russia’s diplomatic row with the United States on Tuesday, saying Moscow could further cut U.S. diplomatic staffing in Russia and calling U.S. searches of a Russian consulate and other diplomatic properties “boorish.”

“It is hard to conduct a dialogue with people who confuse Austria with Australia, but there is nothing we can do about this. It seems to be the level of political culture in a certain part of the U.S. establishment,” Putin said in his first public statements on the deepening diplomatic spat since Washington announced the closure of Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, as well as diplomatic properties housing trade missions in New York and Washington.

The comments came during a news conference at an economic summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen. Putin repeated boilerplate about how he and President Trump defended their national interests, but laced his remarks with bitter jokes. Without directly naming the United States, he said that putting pressure on North Korea would be pointless, saying that North Korea would “eat grass but will not stop this program unless it feels safe.”

“The escalation of military hysteria will not do any good. It may lead to a planetary catastrophe and a colossal casualty rate. There is no other way to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem but peaceful and diplomatic,” Putin said concerning the North Korea, which on Sunday tested a hydrogen bomb that the country’s leaders say can be mounted on a missile capable of reaching the United States.

Media: New York Daily News Sold

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Tronc logoNew York Times, The Daily News, a Distinctive Voice in New York, Is Sold, Sydney Ember and Andrew Ross Sorkin, Sept. 5, 2017. Tronc, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, announced on Monday that it had acquired the Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage.

donald trump nydn clown runs coverThe deal represents the end of an era for the News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class. It may also signal the end of the political influence of its owner, the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as “the wood” — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally. [Its front page is shown at left portraying Donald Trump upon the 2015 launch of his presidential campaign.]

Sweeping layoffs have reduced its staff. The paper’s circulation, which exceeded two million a day in the 1940s, is now in the low hundred thousands. The Chicago Tribune reported on Monday that Tronc (whose logo is shown at right) purchased the News for just $1, plus the assumption of liabilities.

Owning the News gives Tronc newspapers in the country’s three biggest media markets — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — along with markets including Baltimore and Hartford, which the company hopes will endear it to national advertisers.

New York Times, At CNN, Retracted Story Leaves an Elite Reporting Team Bruised, Sydney Ember and Michael M. Grynbaum, Sept. 5, 2017. Late on a Monday afternoon in June, members of CNN’s elite investigations team were summoned to a fourth-floor room in the network’s glassy headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

A top CNN executive, Terence Burke, had startling news: three of their colleagues, including the team’s executive editor, were leaving the network in the wake of a retracted article about Russia and a close ally of President Trump. Effective immediately, Mr. Burke said, the team would stop publishing stories while managers reviewed what had gone wrong.

Looming over the newsroom was a pending $85 billion takeover of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, by AT&T, a deal requiring Justice Department approval that some White House aides considered a potential form of leverage against the network and its president, Jeffrey A. Zucker.

The episode shocked many inside CNN and created anxiety in the newsroom. Some staff members said they thought the punishment had been overly harsh, a view expressed by some media commentators as well.

Sept. 4

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New York Times, North Korea’s Test of Nuclear Bomb Amplifies a Global Crisis, David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, Sept. 4, 2017 (print edition). The test was seen as a major embarrassment for President Xi Jinping of China, and President Trump’s response might have opened a new rift with South Korea. After the blast, the Trump administration spoke twice with Japan’s leader; it also warned of a “massive military response” if the United States or its allies were threatened.

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Washington Post, South Korea’s defense minister suggests return of tactical U.S. nuclear weapons, Anna Fifield​, Sept. 4, 2017.​ Song Young-moo said that he asked his American counterpart, Jim Mattis, during talks at the Pentagon last week for strategic assets like U.S. aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and B-52 bombers to be sent to South Korea more regularly.

U.S. Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump May Pull ‘Dreamer’ Plan, but With 6-Month Delay, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 4, 2017 (print edition). President Trump is said to be sympathetic to the young undocumented immigrants protected under the program, but is trying to adhere to a core campaign promise. He may give Congress six months to legislate a solution.

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Washington Post, With brutal Sept. to-do list, GOP already clashing over Harvey relief, debt limit, Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis and Ed O'Keefe, Sept. 4, 2017. Trump and Republicans are under pressure to achieve policy victories and carry out such basic acts of governance as avoiding default and keeping government open. 

ny times logocharles blow CustomNew York Times, Liberal opinion: In Defense of the Truth, Charles M. Blow (shown at right), Sept. 4, 2017. Once again: Donald Trump is a liar. The Department of Justice confirmed in a Friday court filing what we all knew to be true: that Trump’s slanderous assertion on Twitter in March that President Barack Obama had Trump’s “ ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” just before the election was in fact a total fabrication.

According to the filing, both the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division “confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.” To some this lying may seem small, just another defect among many, but to me it is so much more. Honesty is the foundation of character.

The truth is the common base from which all else is built. And yet, this man feels completely unbound by it. He has no respect or reverence for it. For him, honesty is an option, one that he feels no compunction to choose. Of the statements by Trump that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has checked, just 5 percent were deemed absolutely true. Another 26 percent were just “mostly true” or “half true.” But a whopping 69 percent were found to be “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” the site’s worst rating.

Indeed, it seems that every major publication has taken a stab at trying to chronicle and explain Trump’s lying. Trump is quite literally overwhelming our human capacities with his mendacity. It is not only hard to imagine that any person could lie this much — let alone the leader of the free world — it is also impossible for us to keep pace.

Post-Flood Consumer Tips

Associated Press via Washington Post, How to deal with flooded cars in Harvey’s wake, Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin, Sept. 3, 2017.houston flood texas nat guard As Harvey moved away from Southeast Texas, auto industry experts estimate that 500,000 to 1 million vehicles will have been damaged by water, with most being total losses. Cars sat in water for days, in many cases up to the windows or roof lines. It’s likely they’ll never be driven again after the flood (shown in a Texas National Guard photo).

Here are answers to questions about what will happen to those vehicles and how to handle your car in the aftermath of the epic storm.

Should I start my car if  it's been flooded?

A: No, in almost all cases. If the car was only in a few inches of water that didn’t rise past the bottom of the body, maybe. Water higher than that can get into wires, transmission parts, the exhaust or other places. Deeper water could enter the cylinders that surround the pistons. Depending on the severity of flood damage, he says the cost of refurbishing a car likely will be more than replacing it.

Global News: Huge, Little-Reported Gains By Syria's Government Against ISIS

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Syrian battlefront map based on pro-government sources as of Sept. 3, with ISIS-held Euphrates River Valley in green and Syria SAA advances in red

SouthFront, Syrian Army Reached Deir Ezzor City And Reportedly Broke ISIS Siege (Videos, Maps), Staff report, Sept. 4, 2017. On Sunday, units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces reached the 137 Regiment in the western part of Deir Ezzor city, according to pro-government sources. A three-years- old ISIS siege of the city was broken by the SAA and its allies. A video published online showed a vehicle of the SAA announcing to the civilians that ISIS siege has been broken.

Commentary by 'Canthama' on Syrian Perspective: Light forces have reached the garrison of Deir Ezzor, but much fighting continues. No official announcement is expected until the roads have been cleared.

Reuters report: Syrian army, allies race to relieve Deir al-Zor, Sept. 3, 2017. Syria’s army and its allies raced towards their enclave in the Euphrates city of Deir al-Zor after a rapid advance on Sunday, seeking to relieve it after years of Islamic State siege as jihadist defenses suddenly collapsed.

Sept. 3

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North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, shown in a file photo

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Washington Post, North Korea detonates its most powerful nuclear device yet, Anna Fifield​, Sept. 3, 2017. North Korea claimed its latest test was a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to a missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

 Even if Kim Jong Un’s regime is exaggerating its feats, scientific evidence showed that North Korea had crossed an important threshold and had detonated a nuclear device that was exponentially more powerful than its last — and almost seven times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lashes Out at South Korea Amid Trade Dispute, Glenn Thrush, Gardiner Harris and Emiliy Cochrane, Sept. 3, 2017. President Trump called North Korea’s nuclear test “very hostile and dangerous” and took a harsh line against the new government in South Korea, accusing it of talking “appeasement.”

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President Donald Trump official

Washington Post, Trump calls North Korea’s nuclear test ‘very hostile and dangerous,’ scolds South Korea, Philip Rucker, Sept. 3, 2017. Trump says ‘appeasement with North Korea will not work,’ and calls on more severe steps to confront Kim. See related news; Washington Post, Trump plans withdrawal from South Korea free trade deal, Damian Paletta, Sept. 2, 2017.

Investigations of Trump, Family, Colleagues

washington post logobob graham new photoWashington Post, Opinion: I ran Congress’ 9/11 probe. The intelligence committees today can’t handle Russia, Bob Graham, Sept. 3, 2017 (print edition). Bob Graham (shown in a screenshot from a TV appearance) was a U.S. senator from Florida from 1987 to 2005. A Democrat and former two-term Florida governor, he served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 2001 to 2003 and as co-chairman of the Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)

While the two congressional panels, the Senate and House intelligence committees, continue to hold hearings and question witnesses, including Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, both are led by members of a party that is, with the exception of Charlottesville, skittish about criticizing the president.

The greatest hope for an aggressive and impartial inquest seems to lie with Special Counsel Robert Mueller (shown at left), whose bosses have either recused themselves from the Russia probe (as Attorney General Jeff Sessions did) or volunteered that he would have autonomy to follow the facts wherever they led (as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did). The pressure, it seems, is off Congress to act as the primary body holding the president to account.

 This is a dangerous sentiment. The two intelligence committees should act as if their investigations will be the final (and possibly the only) ones — because they may be. President Trump has worked hard to undermine Mueller’s effort, not only berating it as beholden to a partisan “hoax” but also belittling Sessions on Twitter in a transparent attempt to force the attorney general’s resignation.

That way, the president could replace him with an appointee who would stymie Mueller’s work. A central role for Congress is the only real way to guarantee a full report, with conclusions and recommendations, for the American people.

washington post logoWashington Post, The deal Trump wanted with Russia, Ruth Marcus, Sept. 3, 2017 (print edition). To recap, what we know now that we did not know a week ago: While he ran for president, Trump was simultaneously — and secretly — pursuing financial opportunities with a foreign adversary. Not just any adversary, but Russia, a country described by his party’s previous presidential nominee as the United States’ “No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

russian flagAnd not just pursuing financial opportunities in Russia, but actively seeking the help of at least one senior Russian official to gain government approval for the project. Trump Tower Moscow was not another instance of Trump as unabashed cross-promoter-in-chief, like using the campaign press corps to help tout the reopening of his Scottish golf course. It represented something much more disturbing, even unpatriotic.

Houston Flood Follow-up: Dirty Water

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas faces environmental concerns as wastewater, drinking water systems compromised, Arelis R. Hernández, Katie Zezima and Joel Achenbach, Sept. 3, 2017.  The Environmental Protection Agency said that Hurricane Harvey has put more than 800 wastewater treatment facilities out of commission. Thousands of people in Southeast Texas still don’t have safe drinking water.

Probes of U.S. Right-Wing Terrorists

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal government has long ignored white supremacist threats, critics say, Kimberly Kindy, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 3, 2017 (print edition). Analysts who follow far-right groups say neglect by multiple presidential administrations has allowed them to proliferate and strengthen. In the years after 9/11, most of the focus on combating terrorism has centered on Islamist extremists, not on neo-Nazis and the far right.

Sept. 2

Flood Follow-ups

washington post logoWashington Post, The financial toll: $80 billion so far in damage, second only to Katrina, Heather Long, Sept. 2, 2017 (print edition). Harvey could end up being the most expensive of all. The longer homes stay flooded and businesses remain closed, especially the major oil refineries, the bigger the hit to Texas and the entire U.S. economy.

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 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration reconsiders flood rules it just rolled back, Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 2, 2017 (print edition). President Trump had derided Obama-era rules intended to reduce risks posed by flooding as useless red tape holding back the economy. But now, a potential policy shift underscores the extent to which the reality of this week’s storm has collided with Trump officials’ push to upend President Barack Obama’s policies.

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Flooding in Houston (Texas National Guard photo)

White House Chronicle via HuffPost, Analysis: Existential Fear of Climate Change Reshaping Policy, Llewellyn King, Sept. 2, 2017. Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. Almost every word that can be used to describe a disaster has been used to describe the one that has befallen Houston. But there is one that hasn’t been used yet: seminal. It means a work, event, moment or figure strongly influencing later developments.

The flooding and near destruction of Houston and the Gulf Coast is such an event. It will influence public policy for decades to come. First, there is going to be the gigantic national job of rebuilding the nation’s fourth-largest city — and quite possibly abandoning large parts of it. It will affect property values in flood-prone cities, like Miami, New Orleans, New York and Tampa, Fla. It will result in urgent calls for the construction of new flood barriers, or the beefing up of those that already exist in cities like Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass.

Going forward, there will be a new existential threat felt in the United States: climate uncertainty. It will not matter whether the Houston disaster is linked to the burning of fossil fuels. What will matter is that the warnings of dramatic changes in climate will have an influence they have not hitherto had. The sky has fallen.

Trump White House, Politics & Probes

omarosa manigault newman gage skidmore custom 2Daily Beast, John Kelly Pushing Out Omarosa for ‘Triggering’ Trump, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Sept. 2, 2017. The new chief of staff is trying to cure the chaos that infected the West Wing. And Omarosa (shown at right in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) is ‘Patient Zero’ for unfettered access to the Boss.

john kelly o dhsNewly minted White House chief of staff John Kelly (shown left) has sought to put a dent in the influence of one of President Donald Trump’s most famous advisers: Omarosa Manigault. The former Apprentice co-star — who currently serves as the communications director for the Office of Public Liaison — has seen her direct access to the president limited since Kelly took the top White House job in late July, sources tell the Daily Beast.

In particular, Kelly has taken steps to prevent her and other senior staffers from getting unvetted news articles on the president’s Resolute desk — a key method for influencing the president’s thinking, and one that Manigualt used to rile up Trump about internal White House drama.

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Palmer Report, Opinion From Left, Robert Mueller isn’t just going to destroy Donald Trump. He’s going to expose Trump’s most humiliating secret, Bill Palmer, Sept. 2, 2017. For some people there are worse fates than losing their job, or their reputation, or even their freedom. They have that one deep dark secret that, if it ever surfaced, would destroy them psychologically. And that brings us to the case of Donald Trump, whose most humiliating secret is on the verge of being released [by special counsel Robert Mueller, shown below].

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)

We saw during the campaign that [Trump] was willing to risk losing the election just to keep it a secret: he’s broke.

He had to bankrupt and begin selling off his casino company in 2009. That’s when he stopped donating to his own foundation according to its tax records; the only reason to do this was that his income was so upside down, there was no need to continue generating write-offs. He had to start borrowing from foreign banks, because his American banking partners all knew he was washed up. In the end, Robert Mueller will expose that Trump’s debts are so large, he’s not a billionaire. Instead he’s flat broke. And for Trump, that’s a worse fate than everything else that’ll happen to him.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plans withdrawal from South Korea free trade deal, Damian Paletta, Sept. 2, 2017. President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare a withdrawal from the free-trade agreement, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally at a time both countries confront a crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. While it is still possible the president could decide to stay in the agreement in order to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this coming week.

washington post logoWashington Post, I was born in poverty in Appalachia. ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ doesn’t speak for me, Betsy Rader, Sept. 2, 2017. Betsy Rader is an employment lawyer located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She is running as a Democrat to represent Ohio’s 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House. J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy published last year, has been assigned to students and book clubs across the country. Pundits continue to cite it as though the author speaks for all of us who grew up in poverty.

But Vance doesn’t speak for me, nor do I believe that he speaks for the vast majority of the working poor.

Global News

russian flagReuters via New York Times, Russia Hands Note of Protest to U.S. Over Plans to Search Trade Mission, Staff report, Sept. 2, 2017. Russia's foreign ministry has summoned a U.S. diplomat in Moscow to hand him a note of protest over plans to conduct searches in Russia's trade mission complex in Washington, which should soon be closed, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The ministry called the planned "illegal inspection" of Russian diplomatic housing an "unprecedented aggressive action", which could be used by the U.S. special services for "anti-Russian provocations" by the way of "planting compromised items".

The closure by Sept. 2 of the consulate and buildings in Washington and New York that house Russian trade missions is the latest in tit-for-tat actions by the two countries that have helped push relations to a new post-Cold War low. The Kremlin has said the moves to close the Russian facilities pushed bilateral ties further into a dead end.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Kenya president warns judiciary after it nullifies election, Tom Odula, Sept. 2, 2017. Kenya’s president promised Saturday to “fix” the judicial system a day after the Supreme Court nullified his re-election, and he warned the chief justice and judiciary not to interfere with the electoral commission as the country prepares for a new presidential vote. uhuru kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) again accused the court of overturning the will of the people after he had been declared the winner of the Aug. 8 election. The court on Friday said the electoral commission had committed irregularities in the vote and called for a new election within 60 days.

Arms Smuggling Report

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SouthFront, Interview with Dilyana Gaytandzhieva on weapons supplies to Syria and the media censorship in Europe, Staff report, Sept. 2, 2017. Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is an investigative reporter who authored a report for Trud Newspaper, which found that an Azerbaijan state airline company was regularly transporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey under diplomatic cover as part of the CIA covert program to supply militants in Syria

Scandals, Courts: Around the Nation

ny times logoNew York Times, Football Favoritism at F.S.U.: The Price One Teacher Paid, Mike McIntire, Sept. 2, 2017 (print edition). As its team marched toward a national title, Florida State investigated charges of academic favoritism for top players. The teacher who reported the favoritism lost her job.

Sept. 1

Texas-Louisiana Hurricane Watch

At least 46 reported dead in storms

ny times logoNew York Times, Damaged Plant Is One of the Most Hazardous in Texas, Julie Turkewitz, Henry Fountain and Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 1, 2017 (print edition). A flood-damaged chemical plant outside Houston was rocked by explosions after a systems failure, drawing sharp focus on the hazards presented by the city’s vast petrochemical complex. The storm, now a tropical depression, continued to spread across the region. In Beaumont, Tex., 120,000 residents were left without clean water.

International Business Times / Newsweek, Texas Chemical Plant Company Has Industry Ally Writing Rules At The EPA, Josh Keefe, Sept. 1, 2017. The French chemical company Arkema, owner of a crippled Texas plant that was in flames Friday evening, has a high-ranking ally at the Environmental Protection Agency: former chemical industry lobbyist Nancy Beck, who now works in the office that regulates the kinds of dangerous chemicals that, together with sewage and superfund sites, have turned Houston area floodwaters into a contaminated stew.

Beck, the EPA’s deputy assistant administrator, was appointed to the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in April, just a month after she testified to Congress on improving use of science at the EPA as a Senior Director at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry’s leading lobbying group. Beck worked at the ACC, which counts Arkema as a member, from 2012 to 2017, a period in which the Council spent more than $65 million on lobbying, according to an International Business Times review of congressional lobbying records.

scott pruitt epaEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (shown at left) appointed Beck and drew condemnation from a variety of groups as Beck, who has a Ph.D. in environmental health from the University of Washington, went to work at her new job overseeing the development of rules governing toxic chemicals. The Environmental Working Group’s Melanie Benesh called Beck “the scariest Trump appointee you’ve never heard of.”

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, wrote Beck has “existing and potentially problematic relationships with the companies that she is now in charge or regulating,” in a June letter to Pruitt. And career staff at the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance raised concerns about changes Beck instituted to the agency’s review process for potentially hazardous chemicals in an internal memo, according to Politico.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Harvey’s wake, a crippled water system, a chemical plant blaze and prolonged misery, Abigail Hauslohner, Todd C. Frankel and Joel Achenbach, Sept. 1, 2017. Residents with no running water were unable to flush toilets, desperate for basic sanitation and fearful for their health. Meanwhile a massive fire at the Arkema chemical plant northeast of Houston sent up a black tower of acrid smoke. Company officials said there was nothing they could do to stop 19.5 tons of volatile chemicals from igniting.

Legal Scrutiny of Trump

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)

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washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller examining letter Trump drafted days before he fired FBI Director Comey, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Ashley Parker​, Sept. 1, 2017. The document helps show the president’s state of mind at the time, including his frustration that Comey was unwilling to say publicly that Trump was not under investigation in the FBI’s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller abruptly resigns; Major Trump-Russia bombshell forthcoming, Bill Palmer, Sept 1, 2017. In perhaps Donald Trump’s ultimate act of cronyism and paranoia, when he first got into the White House he hired his own longtime personal bodyguard Keith Schiller to help oversee White House security. In an even more surreal move, he sent Schiller to hand deliver a letter to FBI Director James Comey’s empty office to inform him of his firing.

Donald J. Trump and Keith SchillerNow that word has leaked that there were two different versions of that letter and that Robert Mueller has both versions, Schiller (shown at right with the president) has abruptly resigned.

The most logical interpretation is that Schiller knows there’s more to come. He took today’s NYT story as a sign that the real bombshell regarding the two letters is about to drop. He surely knows that resigning won’t get him off any legal hook as a potential suspect or witness. Seemingly, his only motive for resigning is to get away from Trump before the other shoe drops. Is Schiller the one who gave Trump’s first letter to Robert Mueller? Stay tuned.

washington post logoJohn McCainWashington Post, We are not his subordinates’: John McCain’s rallying cry to the GOP resistance, Amber Phillips, Sept. 1, 2017. The Republican senator (shown ata right) published a fiery op-ed blasting Trump as “a president who has no experience of public office, is poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.”

Trump Again Irritated By Chief of Staff?

ny times logoNew York Times, Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 1, 2017.President Trump was in an especially ornery mood after staff members gently suggested he refrain from injecting politics into day-to-day issues of governing after last month’s raucous rally in Arizona, and he responded by lashing out at the most senior aide in his presence.

 john kelly o dhsIt happened to be his new chief of staff, John F. Kelly (shown at right).

 Mr. Kelly, the former Marine general brought in five weeks ago as the successor to Reince Priebus, reacted calmly, but he later told other White House staff members that he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of serving his country. In the future, he said, he would not abide such treatment, according to three people familiar with the exchange.

roger stone headshotIt is inevitable that a guy who will not be contained and does not want to be handled or managed was going to rebel against the latest manager who wanted to control him,” said Roger Stone (shown in a file photo at left), the longtime Trump adviser, who believes Mr. Kelly represents a kind of management coup by “the triumvirate” of two powerful retired generals — Mr. Kelly and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary — and one general who is still in the Army, the national security adviser, Lt. Gen H. R. McMaster.

John Kelly is fully aware of the president’s resentment about being managed, and his appeal has gradually dimmed. But Mr. Trump needs Mr. Kelly more than Mr. Kelly needs him.

Consortium News, The Reasons for Netanyahu’s Panic, Alastair Crooke (former British diplomat), Sept.1, 2017. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is pushing the panic button over the collapse of the Saudi-Israeli jihadist proxies in Syria and now threatening to launch a major air war.

Benjamin Netanyahu Frown

A very senior Israeli intelligence delegation, a week ago, visited Washington. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke into President Putin’s summer holiday to meet him in Sochi, where, according to a senior Israeli government official (as cited in the Jerusalem Post), Netanyahu threatened to bomb the Presidential Palace in Damascus, and to disrupt and nullify the Astana cease-fire process, should Iran continue to “extend its reach in Syria.”

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What is absolutely clear (from Israeli sources) is that both in Washington and at Sochi, the Israeli officials were heard out, but got nothing. Israel stands alone. Netayahu’s “near panic” (if that is indeed what occurred) may well be a reflection of this seismic shift taking place in the region. Israel has long backed the losing side – and now finds itself “alone” and fearing for its near proxies (the Jordanians and the Kurds). The “new” corrective strategy from Tel Aviv, it appears, is to focus on winning Iraq away from Iran, and embedding it into the Israel-U.S.-Saudi alliance.

President Trump opens Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology with Egypt's al-Sissi and Saudi Arabia's King Salman (Washington Post photo)

President Donald Trump touches lighted globe with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman at the opening of Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on May 21, 2017. (Photo from Saudi TV.)

Cops and Courts Around the Nation

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘This is crazy,’ sobs Utah hospital nurse as cop roughs her up, arrests her for doing her job, Derek Hawkins, Sept. 1, 2017. A Salt Lake City police detective handcuffed a nurse after she prevented him from collecting blood from an unconscious patient.

By all accounts, the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit was professional and restrained when she told a Salt Lake City police detective he wasn’t allowed to draw blood from a badly injured patient. The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.

Still, Detective Jeff Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, saying the nurse would be arrested and charged if she refused.

Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”

Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.

Inside Trump White House

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john kelly o dhsWashington Post, In a summer of crisis, Trump chafes against criticism and new controls, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, Sept. 1, 2017. President Trump appears to pine for the days when the Oval Office was a bustling hub of visitors and gossip. He fumes about the media and Congress. Some of his friends fear the short-tempered president is on a collision course with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (right).

 Trump chafes at some of the retired Marine Corps general’s moves to restrict access to him since he took the job almost a month ago, said several people close to the president. They run counter to Trump’s love of spontaneity and brashness, prompting some Trump loyalists to derisively dub Kelly “the church lady” because they consider him strict and morally superior.

tom marino oPolitico, Trump to tap Rep. Tom Marino as 'drug czar,' Cristiano Lima, Sept. 1, 2017. The White House announced Friday that President Donald Trump will nominate Rep. Tom Marino (R) of Pennsylvania, a campaign supporter, to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a role commonly known as the “drug czar.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pulls back threat to shut down government over border wall — for now, Damian Paletta, Sept. 1, 2017. Shortly after Trump made the threat, White House officials quietly notified Congress that the funds would not need to be in a “continuing resolution” that was meant to fund the government for the short term, a senior GOP congressional aide said.

Media / Whistleblowing

seymour hersh hsConsortium News, Seymour Hersh Honored for Integrity, Ray McGovern, Sept. 1, 2017. An organization led by former Western intelligence officials has selected legendary journalist Seymour Hersh to be the recipient of an annual award for integrity and truth-telling, named for the late CIA analyst Sam Adams on the evening of Sept. 22 at American University.

The announcement said: Sam Adams Associates, who selected Hersh last month from a truly impressive roster of truth-tellers, are enthusiastic at the prospect of Sy joining the ranks of the 15 earlier awardees – from Coleen Rowley (2002) to John Kiriakou (2016). Included among those in between are other patriots: like Katharine Gun, U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray, Col. Larry Wilkerson, Julian Assange, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Fingar, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Bill Binney. For details and other material on whistleblowing, visit Sam Adams Award.