September 2017 News Reports

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative September 2017 news and views

Sept. 18

 

 

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Washington Post, Category 5 Hurricane Maria is a severe threat to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico; Jose to scrape Northeast coast, Jason Samenow, Sept. 18, 2017. The wicked 2017 hurricane season is set to deliver its next two punishing blows from Hurricanes Maria and Jose. In both the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast of the Northeast United States, conditions are set to deteriorate rapidly through Wednesday as these storms arrive.

 

Of the two storms, however, Maria is the much more serious hurricane – upgraded to Category 5, the most extreme level Monday evening.

 

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 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

 

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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

North Korean flag

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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 and Asma Assad via 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.

bashar assad russian mod sergei shoigu 9 12 17 twitter

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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 U.S. 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.