Aug. 2019 Reporting


Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative August 2019 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this. 

Aug. 19

Epstein Death Blame

nbc news logoNBC News, AG Barr removes acting Bureau of Prisons chief in wake of Epstein suicide, Adam Edelman, Aug. 19, 2019. Attorney william barr new oGeneral William Barr, right, on Monday said he removed the acting director of the federal Bureau of Prisons from his job in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein's suicide in a federal jail in Manhattan earlier this month where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Hugh Hurwitz, below at left, had been the agency's acting director. Barr said Hurwitz would remain in the Bureau of Prisons as the assistant director of department's Reentry Services Division.

Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide August 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

hugh hurwitz headshotHe was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. He had apparently hanged himself, and was found unresponsive at around 6:30 a.m. ET.

The center's warden, Lamine N'Diaye, has been temporarily reassigned, and the two guards assigned to watch Epstein have been placed on leave.

The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating how Epstein was able to take his own life while he was being held. Barr has said "serious irregularities" had been found at the lock up.

Barr, in a statement Monday, said he’d appointed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the bureau's new director and Dr. Thomas R. Kane as the its new deputy director. The statement makes no reference to Epstein.

"I am confident Dr. Hawk Sawyer and Dr. Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers."

Sawyer served as the bureau's chief from 1992 to 2003. She was appointed when Barr was the attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Kane worked in several senior roles in the agency from 1977 to 2018.

Lawmakers and Trump administration officials have expressed outrage that that Epstein could have possibly killed himself under the noses of jailers. The disgraced financier was taken off suicide watch even though he had reportedly tried to take his own life last month, officials have said.

See related story: MSNBC, House Judiciary asks if White House linked to Epstein decisions, Lawrence O’Donnell discusses with hugh hurwitz headshotMimi Rocah and John Heilemann, Aug. 12, 2019 (18:34 min. video). The top Democrat and top Republican on the Judiciary Committee want the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, right, to explain in great detail how it was possible that Jeffrey Epstein's death happened and was anyone at DOJ or Trump admin in the know?

Turk-Syrian Battle Looming?

turkish convoy into syria aug 19 2019 almohrar media

Turkish convoy into Syria on Aug. 19, 2019 (AlMohrar Media)

SouthFront, Turkish Military Convoy Hurrying Up To Rescue Militants In Khan Shaykhun. Syria Responds With Warning Airstrikes, Levent Kemal, Aug. 19, 2019. On August 19, a large Turkish military convoy (at least 28 pieces of military equipment including battle tanks) entered the territory of Syria from Turkey. The convoy entered the town of Saraqeb in eastern Idlib and moved towards the town turkey flagof Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib.

Khan Shaykhun is the key stronghold of radical militants (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies) in the area. After the recent gains by the Syrian Army, militants’ defense in the town appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

The Turkish miltiary is reportedly aiming to set up an ”observation post’ in Khan Shaykhun thus preventing the Syrian military from liberating the town from terrorists.

The Syrian Arab Air Force carried out warning strikes near the Turkish military convoy moving towards Khan Shaykhun. According to pro-militant sources, at least one militant field commander accompanying the convoy was killed.

syria southfront southern idlib map aug 19 2019

Related story: SouthFront, Syrian Army Launches Decisive Push To Capture Chunk Of M5 Highway North Of Khan Shaykhun, Staff and wire reports, Aug. 19, 2019. As a large Turkish military convoy is moving to rescue militants in Khan Shaykhun, the syrian flag wavingSyrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies launched a push to capture a chunk of the M5 highway north of the militant stronghold.

According to pro-government sources, the SAA is currently storming the northern entrance to Khan Shaykhun.  Meanwhile, the Russian Aerospace Forces continued bombing militant targets across southern Idlib.

Veterans Today, Commentary: Turkish Convoy Destroyed Taking Arms to al Qaeda, Staff and wire reports, Aug. 19, 2019. The Turkish Defense Ministry has condemned Syria for attacking its convoy in the Syrian province of Idlib. Damascus said the vehicles were transporting weapons and ammo to “terrorist forces.”

Ankara said three people were killed and 12 others injured on Monday after the Syrian airstrike, which targeted a Turkish military convoy travelling between two observation points in northern Syria. The statement said all victims were civilians, without explaining how they were involved in a military operation.

Many months ago, an agreement was reached to open the road through Khan Sheik Houn from Latakia to Aleppo and for al Qaeda to remove all heavy weapons from the region.

Instead, Turkey and the U.S. have continued to ship heavy weapons to al Qaeda and nothing has happened. Days ago, Syria began its promised advance on this area based on the gross violation of the terms of this agreement. In doing so, a Turkish convoy was destroyed bringing, now wait for it, heavy weapons to terrorists who were engaging the Syrian Arab Army.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The Syrian air strikes appeared to be of limited scope and not a full bombardment of the convoy.

Afghan Carnage

afghanistan map world

washington post logoWashington Post, Islamic State claims suicide attack on Kabul wedding that killed 63, Pamela Constable and Sharif Hassan​, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). The attack goes to the heart of the Afghan capital’s entertainment scene, which revolves around massive weddings.

At least 63 people died in Afghanistan’s capital when a suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State blew himself up in a crowded wedding hall in one of the most devastating attacks on civilians in the long conflict.

The Islamic State’s local affiliate issued a statement online Sunday claiming responsibility for the attack. The group has made a brutal name for itself for focusing its attacks on civilians.

The awful scale of Saturday night’s attack on the wedding only became apparent in the morning when the Interior Ministry said that at least 63 had been killed and more than 180 wounded.

See related story: New York Times, Peace Road Map for Afghanistan Will Let Taliban Negotiate Women’s Rights, Lara Jakes, Aug. 17, 2019 (print ed.).

Changing Views On U.S. Business?

washington post logoWashington Post, CEO group says maximizing shareholder profits can no longer can be primary goal, Jena McGregor, Aug. 19, 2019. The Business Roundtable — whose members are CEOs of America’s largest companies — says corporations must balance profits with the needs of employees, customers and other stakeholders.

The new statement, released Monday, suggests balancing the needs of a company’s various constituencies and comes at a time of widening income inequality, rising expectations from the public for corporate behavior and proposals from Democratic lawmakers that aim to revamp or even restructure American capitalism.

• Perspective: Top CEOs are reclaiming legitimacy by advancing a vision of what’s good for America

News Media

 washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: When local news goes away, citizens suffer. Gannett's megamerger will probably just inflict more pain, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). Deeper job cuts, almost inevitable, would strike another blow to an industry in crisis.

gatehouse media logoThe recently announced $1.4 billion merger with another giant newspaper chain, GateHouse Media, is not good news for journalists at Gannett’s nationally circulated flagship, USA Today, or its prominent regional papers including the Detroit Free Press, the gannett logo CustomIndianapolis Star, the Des Moines Register, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Arizona Republic.

GateHouse’s approach to its newspapers in recent years has made Gannett look almost munificent by contrast. And although Gannett’s name will be attached to the new company, GateHouse’s business practices seem more likely to prevail.

Mass Shootings

washington post logonra logo CustomWashington Post, As mass shootings rise, experts say high-capacity magazines should be the focus, Griff Witte, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). Limiting the number of bullets in gun magazines won’t stop mass attacks, but it could bring down their death tolls, experts say. The odds that Congress or state legislatures will act still appear relatively remote.

U.S. Politics / Media

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump's neo-fascist street gangs intimidating America's cities, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 16 books, wayne madsen may 29 2015 croppedincluding Trump's Bananas Republic), Aug. 19, 2019 (subscription required). This editor’s cooperative association with wayne madsen trumps bananas coverAustin, Texas-based Alex Jones and his Infowars organization was a lesson in modern political provocation designed to disrupt constitutional order in the United States.

It also provided a unique window on his activities.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s goons begin eating each other alive as Trump circles the drain, Bill Palmer, Aug. 19, 2019. With Donald Trump’s 2020 poll numbers getting uglier by the day, we’re now seeing his own movement turn on itself in striking, and in some ways darkly humorous, fashion.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, this past week we’ve seen former Trump White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci finally come out swinging against Donald Trump. Why now, more than two year after Trump fired him? Maybe the Mooch had an epiphany.

geraldoOr maybe he’s doing it for the same reason Fox News goon Geraldo Rivera (right) is finally turning sharply against Trump: now that Trump is in freefall, there’s a career opportunity for those on the far right who kick Trump on his way down.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 croppedThe whole thing has, of course, become a farce. Over the weekend, even as Geraldo was attacking Trump for being horrible, and Scaramucci (left) was attacking Trump for being horrible, Geraldo was also attacking Scaramucci for not having come out against Trump sooner. '

It’s as if only one of them is going to land the gig of “Trump’s chief critic on the right” and they’re trying to race each other to see who gets it. This all came even as racist game show host Chuck Woolery was attacking Geraldo for attacking racist reality show host Donald Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Troop Buildup, China Sends a Stark Warning to Hong Kong, Steven Lee Myers and Javier C. Hernández, Aug. 19, 2019. By massing troops within view of the city, which has been convulsed by protests, China delivered a strong message that the use of force remained an option.

UK Prediction On Brexit Woes

washington post logoWashington Post, British government braces for economic, social chaos in event of a ‘no-deal Brexit,’ leaked memo shows, Karla Adam and Hannah Knowles, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). An increasingly likely “no-deal” Brexit could wreak havoc on Britain’s economy, infrastructure and social fabric, the government says in classified documents leaked to a British newspaper.

United Kingdom flagThe costs of food and social care would rise, while medicines could be delayed, the Sunday Times reported. Border delays would interrupt fuel supplies. Ports would suffer severe disruptions and recover only partially after three months, leaving traffic at 50 to 70 percent of the current flow.

Those are some of the effects predicted by “Operation Yellowhammer,” which the newspaper said was compiled this month by Britain’s Cabinet Office and available to those with “need to know” security clearances.

#MeToo Modeling Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, As with Epstein’s accusers, justice has been elusive for women allegedly abused by his modeling agent friend, Beth Reinhard, Rosalind S. Helderman and Jenn Abelson, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). Jean-Luc Brunel, who has been the subject of allegations for decades, had befriended financier Jeffrey Epstein.

jean luc brunelThe teenage American models who arrived in Paris, far from their parents and hometowns, said the bargain was clear: have sex with their prominent French agent and his wealthy, middle-aged friends or risk a fleeting shot at a modeling career.

Nineteen-year-old Courtney Powell was among a handful of young models who took the bold step of publicly accusing Jean-Luc Brunel of sexual misconduct — ranging from groping and other sexual advances to drugging women’s drinks and rape — in the hope that he would be stopped.

But their allegations, nationally televised on CBS’s “60 Minutes” in 1988 and echoed later in a book and court records, sparked no apparent investigation. Nor did they prevent Brunel from continuing to exploit and assault others, according to two other former models recently interviewed by The Washington Post.

Brunel went on to befriend a wealthy, jet-setting American financier named Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly abused dozens of minors; one, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has said in court documents that Epstein pressured her to have sex with Brunel when she was a teenager.

Brunel’s accusers are calling for law enforcement to investigate the 72-year-old modeling scout and whether he helped Epstein procure girls.

More Epstein Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, British paper publishes footage of Prince Andrew at Epstein’s NYC home, Karla Adam​, Aug. 19, 2019. The Mail on Sunday video shows Prince Andrew waving goodbye to a young woman outside sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan home in 2010.

Buckingham Palace said that Prince Andrew is “appalled” over the Jeffrey Epstein’s sex abuse claims, following the publication of images of the Duke of York at Epstein’s New York home in 2010.

United Kingdom flagThe palace statement came hours after the Mail on Sunday published footage of Andrew at Epstein’s Manhattan residence in which he is seen looking out from a large door and waving a cheerful goodbye to a young woman.

“The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged crimes,” read the statement emailed to The Washington Post on Monday. “His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.”

The video footage was reportedly taken in 2010, when Epstein was a registered sex offender who had served time in jail. A Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001picture of Andrew and Epstein strolling in Central Park from around the same time surfaced in 2011, prompting questions over Andrew’s judgment.

Shortly after, he quit his unpaid job as a trade envoy.

Prince Andrew is shown separately at left in a 2001 photo in London with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, center, who has alleged in a lawsuit that she was recruited at age 17 to become a sex slave by Epstein's friend Ghislaine Maxwell (at right) after being a towel-girl at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

Epstein's Final Affairs

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein signed will just two days before suicide, Priscilla DeGregory and Kate Sheehy, Aug. 19, 2019. Jeffrey Epstein signed his will just two days before he hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell — leaving behind a nearly $600 million fortune, according to court papers exclusively obtained by The Post on Monday.

The court document, filed in the US Virgin Islands, where the convicted sex molester owned two isles — including one that locals dubbed “Pedophile Island’’ — was filed Aug. 8.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University The 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager, right, was worth $577,672,654, or about $18 million more than he previously stated in court papers while futilely trying to land bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, the new documents show.

He put all of his holdings in a trust, called The 1953 Trust, after the year he was born.

“It’s done that way for privacy reasons,’’ a city estate lawyer told The Post. “It’s pretty boiler-plate. It’s what we call a ‘pour-over will,’ which means everything pours over to a trust.

“What is more unusual is the date, the fact that all of this was done just days before he died,’’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

“He could have thought, ‘I need to get my ducks in a row.’ ”

The 21-page filing includes a copy of Epstein’s death certificate from Aug. 11, the day after his suicide — and lists “Immediate Cause: Pending Further Study.’’

The city Medical Examiner’s Office has since ruled that Epstein killed himself Aug. 10.

Manhattan federal prosecutors Monday asked the judge overseeing his criminal case to officially toss it in light of his death.

“Because Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, died while this case was pending, and therefore before a final judgement was issued, the indictment must be dismissed under the rule of abatement,” the assistant US attorneys wrote judge Richard Berman, who was overseeing the case.

The federal prosecutors added to the judge that they have notified all of Epstein’s “identified victims” and repeated previous statements from US Attorney Geoffrey Berman that his office isn’t done looking into the alleged sex-trafficking ring that serviced Epstein and his buddies.

Epstein’s will was filed with court officials in St. Thomas.

One of the two Brooklyn lawyers listed as witnessing its signing is Mariel A. Colon Miro — an attorney for drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo’’ Guzman. Miro was once accused of flouting court rules by passing a phone to Chapo’s wife so the spouse could communicate with her imprisoned husband. Miro has denied the claim.

The Post’s legal expert said Epstein’ s lawyers likely filed his will in the Virgin Islands to try to keep it “more private, because that is not where people would look.’’ In New York, “There is always a risk that it would be leaked.”

There are no details on the trust’s beneficiaries. The court papers note that Epstein’s only potential heir was his brother, Mark Epstein. But the will adds that Mark only had a claim to his brother’s extensive holdings if Jeffrey hadn’t left behind the document.

Jeffrey Epstein had been sued by a multitude of sex accusers before his death, and the lawsuits are still piling on. The new legal documents note, “Petitioners are investigating potential debts and claims of the Estate and at this time they are unknown.’’

Epstein’s list of holdings in the new documents mainly mirrors what his lawyers previously filed when seeking bail for him, although they include two additions.

One lists “Aviation Assets, Automobiles and Boats,’’ a collection worth $18,551,700, and another involving Epstein’s famous, eccentric, sex-drenched art collection — “fine arts, antiques, collectibles, valuables,’’ according to the papers — which still needs to be appraised.

While the will is new, it is not clear whether it superceded another.

Its executors are two longtime Epstein employees: lawyer Darren Indyke and businessman Richard Kahn. A third man, Boris Nikolic, is listed as an alternate. The executors will receive $250,000 apiece for their work on the estate, in addition to “reasonable’’ expenses related to the job, the papers say.

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein was sent three 12-year-old French girls as ‘birthday gift,’ Emily Saul and Yaron Steinbuch, Aug. 19, 2019. Jeffrey Epstein once had three 12-year-old girls from poor families flown in from France as a sick birthday present for himself, according to newly unearthed court documents.

Virginia Giuffre — who has claimed Epstein and his gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell coerced her into being a “sex slave” when she was 15 — said in court papers that the girls who were flown in were molested by the financier and returned to France the following day.

“The worst one that I heard from his own mouth was this pretty 12 year old girls he had flown in for his birthday,” she said, according to the document.

“It was a surprise birthday gift from one of his friends and they were from France. I did see them, I did meet them,” she said.

jean luc brunelShe said they were a gift from Epstein’s acquaintance Jean-Luc Brunel, right, a model scout, according to the Daily Mail.

“Jeffrey bragged afterwards after he met them that they were 12-year-olds and flown over from France because they’re really poor over there, and their parents needed the money or whatever the case is and they were absolutely free to stay and flew out.”

The allegations were revealed in 2015 court papers, as part of a 2008 civil lawsuit filed by two Epstein accusers against the US following a plea deal that they argued violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

The case is still ongoing, and federal Judge Kenneth Mara recently ruled that Florida federal prosecutors acted illegally when they failed to inform Epstein’s underage victims of the wrist-slap deal — which included a non-prosecution agreement that shielded the financier’s alleged co-conspirators.

Epstein, who served just 13 months in prison after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor, hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell Aug. 10 while being held on federal sex-trafficking charges, authorities said.

Giuffre said Epstein had described to her how the girls had massaged him and performed oral sex, according to the Daily Mail.

virginia roberts giuffres st tropaz naomi cambpell“He went on to tell me how Brunel bought them in Paris from their parents, offering them the usual sums of money, visas, and modeling career prospects,” she said, according to the news outlet. She is shown as a teen in a photo at St. Tropaz with models and Maxwell.

“Laughing the whole way through, Jeffrey thought it was absolutely brilliant how easily money seduced all walks of life, nothing or no one that couldn’t be bought.”

The same civil suit filed against the Miami US Attorney’s Office alleged that young girls from South America and Eastern Europe also were recruited for sex with Epstein.

The multimillionaire financier invested $1 million to help launch Brunel’s Miami-based modeling firm MC2 in return for a “supply of girls on tap,” according to the lawsuit.

The company has denied any connection to Epstein’s crimes and previously said Brunel no longer actively worked with the firm.

virginia robertsGiuffre, 35, shown in a more recent photo, who lives in Australia, also has claimed that she was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew when she was 17.

Maxwell hasn’t been charged with any crimes, but has been accused in civil suits of having recruited underage victims for Epstein — and of engaging in three-way sex with him and various girls.

She has denied Giuffre’s allegations as “malicious lies.” Brunel also denied being involved “directly or indirectly” in Epstein’s crimes. “I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager,” he told The Guardian.

Prince Andrew also has strongly denied claims of any impropriety, with a rep saying that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.” Buckingham Palace also said in a statement: “The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes.

New York Post, Ghislaine Maxwell’s sister spotted packing bags near socialite’s rumored home, Jackie Salo, Aug. 19, 2019. The sister of Jeffrey Epstein’s gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell was spotted packing up bags near the Massachusetts mansion where the socialite had been rumored to be staying.

Christine Maxwell, who is one of Ghislaine’s older sisters, was photographed on Saturday at a hotel just a few miles from the Manchester-by-the-Sea property owned by Scott Borgerson, a tech CEO romantically linked to the alleged madam, the Telegraph reported.

The 69-year-old sibling — who lives with her husband, Roger Malina, in Dallas, Texas — appeared to be putting several bags into a vehicle with help from a friend, the outlet reported.

The quiet coastal town buzzed with rumors that Ghislaine has been living with Borgerson since 2016. But a neighbor told The Post that the 57-year-old socialite fled the town last month. Borgerson denied he was dating Ghislaine.

Ghislaine Maxwell lived in this home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, with a friend, neighbors said.

Ghislaine, who is the daughter of disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, has long been at the center of the Epstein scandal. She was accused in recently unsealed court papers of providing underage women for Epstein and engaging in threesomes with the financier.

Aug. 18

Trump White House / Immigration

stephen miller white house screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, The Ghostwriter: How Stephen Miller scripts Trump’s immigration policy (Part of series on Trump Cabinet 'All the best people'), Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 18, 2019 (print ed.). With unswerving loyalty, the 33-year-old senior adviser has singular control of an issue central to Donald Trump's presidency and is writing the main plot.

At defining moments in his career, Trump has benefited from clever writers and brand-makers who helped craft his public image. A co-author made him a best-selling business guru with The Art of the Deal. The producers of “The Apprentice” cast him as a donald trump apprentice black and whitereality television star, right.

Now it is Miller, Trump’s 33-year-old senior adviser, who is writing the central plot of his presidency.

Two and a half years into Trump’s term, Miller’s power in the White House is at its peak, according to top administration officials. As one of Trump’s longest-tenured and most trusted aides, his influence in the West Wing is rivaled only by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, they say.

Miller, a former press aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), was among the first staffers on Trump’s presidential campaign. He has since provided Trump with unswerving loyalty and fierce devotion, translating the president’s frustrations and grievances into exalted language and policy prescriptions.

In Trump, Miller has found a champion for his ideological goals. He is the singular force behind the Trump administration’s immigration agenda — making him a crucial White House figure on an issue central to the president’s reelection campaign.

In an interview Friday with The Washington Post, Miller aggressively minimized his role in the administration and would accept no credit for its direction. He said he sees himself as a conservative populist, someone who pushed his liberal high school in California to have the Pledge of Allegiance recited on a daily basis, who says he sees U.S. citizenship “as something sacred” and who regards immigration as a defining element of the nation’s future.

Epstein Death

jeffrey epstein complex dcma federal court protester

A protester against sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein holds his  photo aloft before his death in his cell

ny times logoNew York Times, Inmate 76318-054: The Last Days of Jeffrey Epstein, Ali Watkins, Danielle Ivory and Christina Goldbaum, Aug. 18, 2019 (print ed.). The notorious jail in Manhattan was a sharp departure from Mr. Epstein’s formerly gilded life. Here’s what happened inside.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University Jeffrey Epstein, right, inmate 76318-054, hated his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. It was cramped, dank and infested with vermin, so Mr. Epstein, long accustomed to using his wealth to play by his own rules, devised a way out.

He paid numerous lawyers to visit the jail for as many as 12 hours a day, giving him the right to see them in a private meeting room. Mr. Epstein was there for so long that he often appeared bored, sitting in silence with his lawyers, according to people who saw the meetings. While they were there, he and his entourage regularly emptied the two vending machines of drinks and snacks.

“It was shift work, all designed by someone who had infinite resources to try and get as much comfort as possible,” said a lawyer who was often in the jail visiting clients.

Outside the meeting room, Mr. Epstein mounted a strategy to avoid being preyed upon by other inmates: He deposited money in their commissary accounts, according to a consultant who is often in the jail and speaks regularly with inmates there.
But in his final days, Mr. Epstein’s efforts to lessen the misery of incarceration seemed to be faltering.

He was seldom bathing, his hair and beard were unkempt and he was sleeping on the floor of his cell instead of on his bunk bed, according to people at the jail.

Still, he convinced the jail’s leadership that he was not a threat to himself, even though an inquiry was already underway into whether he had tried to commit suicide on July 23. The federal jail was so poorly managed and chronically short-staffed that workers who were not correctional officers were regularly pressed into guard duty.

Politics / Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Personal Data About Small-Donor Democrats Is All Over the Internet, David M. Primo (a political scientist at the University of Rochester), Aug. 18, 2019. The blame lies not with Russian hackers but with the presidential candidates and the federal government.

dnc square logoOne of the largest single disclosures of small-donor information in American history took place on July 31. On that day, the names, addresses, occupations and employers of at least 2.3 million people who contributed money to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were listed on the internet for all to see. The culprits were not Russian hackers or disgruntled tech workers, but the Democratic presidential candidates and the federal government.

How can this be? The answer, as with all things about campaign finance, is convoluted — but also troubling, as it highlights how transparency in campaign finance can go too far.

Leading (and not so leading) Democratic presidential candidates use ActBlue, an organization that helps Democrats in local, state and federal races raise money with a state-of-the-art online fund-raising infrastructure. ActBlue eliminates the need for campaigns to worry about the technical side of fund-raising and makes it feasible for candidates to raise contributions from donors giving as little as a dollar. (Small donations really matter in the 2020 campaign, as the Democratic Party’s new debate qualification rules include having a sufficient number of unique campaign donors.)

Each time an individual contributes to a presidential candidate using its site, ActBlue collects the donor’s information and then turns around and reports it to the Federal Election Commission — which then puts this information on the internet. Give just one dollar to a candidate through ActBlue and your donation becomes public for the world to see.

Aug. 17

Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Iceland’s Prime Minister: ‘The Ice Is Leaving,’ Katrin Jakobsdottir (prime minister of Iceland), Aug. 17, 2019. Climate change is melting glaciers worldwide. Only we can stop it.

Afghan Peace Deal?

ny times logoNew York Times, Peace Road Map for Afghanistan Will Let Taliban Negotiate Women’s Rights, Lara Jakes, Aug. 17, 2019 (print ed.). As the Taliban and the United States move toward a preliminary peace agreement, there are growing fears that Afghan women will lose the gains they have made.

The deal is not expected to include specific assurances that women will continue to have equal opportunities, officials said.

Other Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Million Indians in One State Risk Being Denied Citizenship. Most Are Muslims, Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kumar, Aug. 17, 2019. The hunt for migrants is unfolding in Assam, a poor, hilly state near the borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

india flag mapThe government is pushing a hard-line Hindu nationalist agenda that is aiming to redefine what it means to be Indian. State authorities are rapidly expanding foreigner tribunals and planning to build huge new detention camps. Hundreds of people have been arrested on suspicion of being a foreign migrant — including a Muslim veteran of the Indian Army. Local activists and lawyers say the pain of being left off a preliminary list of citizens and the prospect of being thrown into jail have driven dozens to suicide.

But the governing party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not backing down.

Instead, it is vowing to bring this campaign to force people to prove they are citizens to other parts of India, part of a far-reaching Hindu nationalist program fueled by Mr. Modi’s sweeping re-election victory in May and his stratospheric popularity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sudan Signs a Power-Sharing Deal After Months of Tumult, Declan Walsh, Aug. 17, 2019. The deal signals an end to eight months of popular protests, the ouster of a dictator and a bloody military-led crackdown.

Sudan’s military and civilian leaders signed a landmark power-sharing deal at a joyous ceremony in the capital, Khartoum, on Saturday, signaling a new chapter in the life of the sprawling African country, which has been rocked by eight months of popular protests, a coup and a bloody military crackdown.

Few Sudanese could have imagined only a year ago that Omar Hassan al-Bashir, their despised ruler of 30 years, would be languishing in Sudan’s most notorious prison awaiting a trial on corruption charges that is expected to start on Monday. Nationwide street celebrations, with music, poetry and fireworks, are expected Saturday night.

Challenging U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats ignite controversy with brief in gun case before Supreme Court, Robert Barnes​, Aug. 17, 2019 (print ed.). In filing an amicus brief, five Democratic senators questioned whether the high court’s conservative majority is motivated by partisan intent and is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association and the Federalist Society.

supreme court graphicsheldon whitehouseIt is rare that an amicus brief filed in a Supreme Court case is characterized as both a brassy reality check and unprecedented political bullying.

But such is the controversy that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), left, and four other Democratic senators have ignited with a filing that instructs the Supreme Court to either drop a New York gun case it has accepted for the coming term or face a public reckoning.

“The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it,” writes Whitehouse, who is listed as the attorney of record on the friend-of-the-court brief. “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’ ” The phrase is from a poll question with which a majority democratic donkey logoof Americans agreed.

Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) joined the incendiary brief, which questions whether the court’s conservative majority — nominated by three Republican presidents — is motivated by partisan intent and is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

Yemen's Houthis Advance

yemen map middle east

Reuters via New York Times, Yemeni Separatists Relinquish Control of Buildings in Aden, Staff report, Aug. 17, 2019. Southern Yemeni separatists withdrew on Saturday from some government buildings in Aden that they seized last week but held on to military camps that give them control over the city, which is Yemen’s southern port and the interim seat of Yemen’s ousted Saudi-backed government.

The separatists’ takeover of Aden has strained a Saudi-led military coalition formed to confront the Iranian-aligned Houthis, who bombed a Saudi oil facility on Saturday.

A Houthi military spokesman said 10 drones launched toward oil installations at Shaybah in eastern Saudi Arabia constituted the “biggest attack in the depths” of the kingdom.

The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and its Shiite regional rival, Iran. The Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthis ousted him from power in the capital Sana in late 2014.

houthi drones

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces

Moon of Alabama, Prediction: Long Range Attack On Saudi Oil Field Ends War On Yemen, B, Aug. 17, 2019. Today, Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen. It has no defenses against new weapons the Houthis in Yemen acquired. These weapons threaten the Saudis economic lifelines. Today was the decisive attack:

yemen map 6 11 2018Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a massive oil and gas field deep inside Saudi Arabia’s sprawling desert on Saturday, causing what the kingdom described as a “limited fire” in the second such recent attack on its crucial energy industry.
The Saudi acknowledgement of the attack came hours after Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Houthis, issued a video statement claiming the rebels launched 10 bomb-laden drones targeting the field in their “biggest-ever” operation. He threatened more attacks would be coming.

Today's attack is a check mate move against the Saudis.

Shaybah is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Houthi-controlled territory. There are many more important economic targets within that range: "The field’s distance from rebel-held territory in Yemen demonstrates the range of the Houthis’ drones. U.N. investigators say the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts Saudi oil fields, an under-construction Emirati nuclear power plant and Dubai’s busy international airport within their range."

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe attack conclusively demonstrates that the most important assets of the Saudis are now under threat. This economic threat comes on top of a seven percent budget deficit the IMF predicts for Saudi Arabia. Further Saudi bombing against the Houthi will now have very significant additional cost that might even endanger the viability of the Saudi state. The Houthi have clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, right, by the balls and can squeeze those at will.

The drones and missiles the Houthi use are copies of Iranian designs assembled in Yemen with the help of Hizbullah experts from Lebanon.

Four days ago, a Houthi delegation visited Iran. During the visit Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the first time publicly admitted that the Houthi have Iran's support: "I declare my support for the resistance of Yemen's believing men and women ... Yemen’s people... will establish a strong government," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying in a meeting with the visiting chief negotiator of the Houthi movement Mohammed Abdul-Salam."

Khamenei, who held talks for the first time in Tehran with a senior Houthi representative, also called for "strong resistance against the Saudi-led plots to divide Yemen", the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"A unified and coherent Yemen with sovereign integrity should be endorsed. Given Yemen’s religious and ethnic diversity, protecting Yemen’s integrity requires domestic dialogue," he said, TV reported.

The visit in Tehran proved that the Houthi are no longer an unrecognized, isolated movement:

Officials from Iran, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, exchanged views about political resolution of the protracted war in the Arabian Peninsula country. The meeting was held at the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran on Saturday with delegations from Iran, Ansarullah and the four European countries in attendance.

The delegates at the meeting explained their respective governments’ views on the developments in Yemen, including political and battlefield developments as well as the humanitarian situation in the country.
The delegates stressed the need for an immediate end to the war and described political means as the ultimate solution to the crisis.

The war on Yemen that MbS started in March 2015 long proved to be unwinnable. Now it is definitely lost. Neither the U.S. nor the Europeans will come to the Saudis help. There are no technological means to reasonably protect against such attacks. Poor Yemen defeated rich Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi side will have to agree to political peace negotiations. The Yemeni demand for reparation payments will be eye-watering. But the Saudis will have no alternative but to cough up whatever the Houthi demand.

The UAE was smart to pull out of Yemen during the last months. Its war aim was to gain control of the port of Aden. Its alliance with southern Yemen separatist who now control the city guarantees that. How long they will be able to hold on to it when Khamenei rejects a division of Yemen remains to be seen.

Today's attack has an even larger dimension than marking the end of the war on Yemen. That Iran supplied drones with 1,500 kilometer reach to its allies in Yemen means that its allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have access to similar means.

Israel and Turkey will have to take that into consideration. U.S. bases along the Persian Gulf and in Afghanistan must likewise watch out. Iran has not only ballistic missiles to attack those bases but also drones against which U.S. missile and air defense systems are more or less useless.

It was the U.S. use of stealthy drones against Iran that gave it a chance to capture one and to analyze and clone it. Iran's extensive drone program is indigenous and quite old but it benefited from technology the U.S. unintentionally provided.

All the wars the U.S. and its allies waged in the Middle East, against Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Lebanon (2006), Syria (2011), Iraq (2014) and Yemen (2015), ended up with

U.S. 2020 Politics

djt twain quote on fooling people indicter Custom

Tarpley Net, Opinion: Panic Spreads from Wall Street to White House as Signs of Serious Economic Downturn Multiply, Webster G. webster tarpley 2007Tarpley, right, Aug. 17, 2019. Rattled Don Sees Plots Everywhere, but Fails to Plan for Recession.

Argentine Currency Collapses, UK & Germany GDP Falling; CASS Index of North American Freight Volumes Signals Economic Contraction; Asian Air Freight Down 8%; World Economy Groaning Under $250 Trillion in New Speculative Debt Added Since 2008 Crisis by Leveraged Loans and Collateralized Loan Obligations!

Impeachment Summer: 125 House Dems Now Back Ongoing Inquiry; Latest to Join Are Deb Haaland (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and David Price (Chapel Hill, North Carolina); Nadler Committee to End Recess Early to Work on Trump Ouster and Gun Safety

Palmer Report, Opinion: Anthony Scaramucci might actually be right for once, Bill Palmer, Aug. 17, 2019. Now that Donald Trump keeps kicking Anthony Scaramucci, left, while he’s down, Scaramucci has decided to get up off the mat and fight back. He’s calling Trump every name in the book, while asserting that Trump is slipping when it comes to his cognitive abilities.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 croppedTrump’s latest 2020 poll numbers are laughably bad. In fact he’s losing to every viable Democratic nominee by a margin that’s well outside the margin of error, and the polls are never off by that much in a national election (contrary to popular belief, the polls were accurate in 2016 within the margin of error). Trump’s internal polling bill palmer report logo headernumbers are reportedly even uglier for him than the publicly available data.

Anthony Scaramucci is predicting that Donald Trump will drop out of the race by March of 2020 because he’ll take a look at his horrible poll numbers, conclude that he’s going to lose badly, and decide to sidestep the humiliation of getting blown out. The election is still a long way away, but if Trump’s numbers do remain this awful heading into general election season, he won’t have a chance – and he’ll know it.

Epstein Death Follow-up

jeffrey epstein gurney cropped emergency room

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein Autopsy Results Conclude He Hanged Himself, Ali Watkins and Michael Gold, Aug. 17, 2019 (print ed.). The findings from New York City’s chief medical examiner refute conspiracy theories that Mr. Epstein may have been murdered.

The results came six days after Mr. Epstein (shown on a gurney at a hospital emergency room in a New York Post photo) was found dead in his cell in federal prison in Manhattan, where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The New York City medical examiner said on Friday that Jeffrey Epstein’s death in a federal jail cell was a suicide, confirming he had hanged himself.

Mr. Epstein’s death had set off a wave of unfounded conspiracy theories, as people speculated online, without evidence, that he might have been killed to keep him from providing information to prosecutors about others in his social circle, including President Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of Britain.

barbara sampsonBut the chief medical examiner in New York City, Dr. Barbara Sampson, right, ruled out foul play. She released a terse statement saying that, after an autopsy and a “careful review of all investigative information,” she had determined the cause of Mr. Epstein’s death was “hanging” and the manner was “suicide.”

Three of Mr. Epstein’s lawyers, Martin G. Weinberg, Reid Weingarten and Michael Miller, challenged the findings and vowed to conduct their own investigation.

“We are not satisfied with the conclusions of the medical examiner,” said the lawyers, who had hired a private pathologist to observe the autopsy, in a statement. “We will have a more complete response in the coming days.”

The medical examiner’s determination came six days after Mr. Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

Guards on their morning rounds found Mr. Epstein at about 6:30 a.m. last Saturday, prison officials said. He appeared to have tied a bedsheet to the top of a set of bunk beds, then knelt toward the floor with enough force that he broke several bones in his neck, officials said.

His suicide followed an apparent attempt to kill himself in late July, and came 12 days after prison staff had recommended he be removed from suicide watch and returned to the wing in which he had been housed before.

U.S.-Israeli Relations Frayed

washington post logoWashington Post, Fight over denial of entry to 2 lawmakers causes rift between Democrats, Israel, Matt Viser and Rachael Bade, Aug. 17, 2019 (print ed.). For decades, Israel held a special place in American politics, with almost universal support. That has eroded over the past several years but seemed to disintegrate this week in a way that some fear could do irreparable damage.

A politically explosive fight over Israel’s attempt to block two members of Congress from entering the country — at President Trump’s urging — has elevated rifts between it and Democrats who have increasingly started to view the Israeli government and its leader as out of line or, in the eyes of at least two presidential candidates, even racist.

benjamin netanyahu frownThe shift in dialogue has been accelerated by the tight embrace between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and after a dizzying 48 hours, some Democrats are more openly discussing the unusual step of reconsidering foreign aid to the longtime ally.

The dispute has fractured bipartisan support for Israel and moved debates over it into partisan space more typically home to issues such as abortion, gun control and immigration.

“There is this tectonic shifting of one of the fundamental plates of American politics,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group. “This has been a plank of the rule book for 60 years, and things are shifting in a really important way.”

A Pew survey released in April showed that the Israeli government was viewed negatively by 51 percent of Americans, with a sharp division along party lines in which Republicans were positive and Democrats were negative.

“This is a strategic blunder of epic proportions that Netanyahu and his advisers have made, turning Israel into a branch of the Republican Party. This is a tiny little country in a very bad neighborhood that needs all the friends it can get.”

Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic, with 71 percent in 2016 voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and 24 percent voting for Trump, according to exit polls.

rashinda tlaib smileThe situation also has put many Democratic lawmakers in the awkward position of defending colleagues they find politically toxic while rebuking a country they support. It has complicated a months-long effort by congressional Democrats to distance themselves from Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), right, and repair some of the damage flowing from accusations that they were anti-Israel or, in the case of Omar, had made anti-Semitic remarks.

Trump has worked to portray those members of Congress as the face of the Democratic Party. But his extreme action — urging an ally to bar two members of Congress from entering — has forced many Democrats to defend Omar and Tlaib even while making clear that they do not agree with all of their views.

Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Mystery lung illness linked to vaping. Officials investigating nearly 100 possible cases, Lena H. Sun and Lindsey Bever, Aug. 17, 2019 (print ed.). State and federal health officials are investigating dozens of cases of illnesses related to vaping in young people across the country.

Aug. 16

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, banking on strong economy to win reelection, frets over a possible downturn, Philip Rucker, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey,  Aug. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Trump warns of market crash if he loses 2020 election: 'No choice but to vote for me.'

Administration officials aren’t preparing for a recession because they don’t expect it, and they worry that planning for one would fuel a negative narrative and cause a crash, said people involved in the discussions.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMounting signs of global economic distress this week have alarmed President Trump, who is worried that a downturn could imperil his reelection, even as administration officials acknowledge that they have not planned for a possible recession.

Trump is banking on a strong economy to win a second term in 2020, and in recent weeks he has impulsively lashed out at the Federal Reserve, pressured Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to label China a “currency manipulator,” and unexpectedly delayed tariffs on Chinese imports out of fear they could depress holiday retail sales.

Yet despite gyrations in the U.S. stock market and economic slowdowns in other countries, officials in the White House, at the Treasury Department and throughout the administration are planning no new steps to attempt to stave off a recession. Rather, Trump’s economic advisers have been delivering the president upbeat assessments in which they argue that the domestic economy is stronger than many forecasters are making it out to be.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump aides look into U.S. purchasing Greenland after directives from president, Damian Paletta and Colby Itkowitz​, Aug. 16, 2019. The request has bewildered staffers, some of whom continue to believe it isn’t serious. But President Trump has mentioned it for weeks.

President Trump has pushed top aides to investigate whether the U.S. government can purchase the giant ice-smothered island of Greenland, two people with direct knowledge of the directive said.

Palmer Report,  Opinion: Maria Butina scandal takes a surreal new turn, Bill Palmer, Aug. 16, 2019. Russian political operative Maria maria butina headshotButina, left, who buddied up to the Republican Party and the NRA on behalf of the Kremlin in relation to the 2016 election, has already been sentenced to prison. But as part of her cooperation deal, she’s supposed to help take down every fellow criminal she encountered.

bill palmer report logo headerThe trouble: that doesn’t seem to be happening. With each passing day, the media breaks open a new scandal involving the NRA – and that’s only going to get even uglier as the New York Attorney General prepares to depose ousted NRA official Oliver North about the group’s malfeasance. Even as this plays out, there is still no clear resolution to just what Maria Butina and her alleged handler Alexander Torshin were actually plotting with the NRA during the 2016 election cycle.

ellen weintraubFEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, left, wants some answers on this, but she can’t get them. She says the Republicans on the Federal Election Commission are blocking her from formally inquiring with the Department of Justice about the status of the case. In fact, Weintraub is so disturbed by this, she appeared on the Rachel Maddow show tonight to sound the alarm.

nra logo CustomSo now we have Donald Trump’s Department of Justice apparently not bothering to do its job with regard to Maria Butina and the NRA, and we have the GOP-loyal members of the FEC trying to prevent any oversight from taking place. It’s more clear than ever that the Republican Party is trying to protect its NRA puppet masters from being taken down. But the NRA is facing legal trouble on so many fronts, it seems inevitable that it will eventually take a fall.

U.S. Rep. Protests Israeli Ban

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Goal: Divide Democrats and Recruit Jewish Voters for G.O.P., Aug. 16, 2019. President Trump’s strategy puts bipartisan U.S. support for Israel at risk, our reporters write in an analysis. Attacks on two Muslim congresswomen are aimed at painting the Democrats as anti-Israel.

washington post logorashinda tlaib smileWashington Post, Tlaib says she will not go to Israel after country barred, then allowed, her to visit, Ruth Eglash and James McAuley​, Aug. 16, 2019. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said she would not visit Israel “under these oppressive conditions” even though her humanitarian request to visit her grandmother in the West Bank was approved. It comes a day after Israel had barred Tlaib and another congresswoman from visiting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Decision on Omar and Tlaib Inflames Politics in Two Countries, Isabel Kershner, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Peter Baker, Aug. 15, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s call to bar the lawmakers was an extraordinary step to influence israel flagan allied nation and punish his political opponents at home. Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, is of Palestinian descent and has spoken often of her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If You Think Trump Is Helping Israel, You’re a Fool, Thomas L. Friedman, Aug. 16, 2019. By barring Representatives Omar and Tlaib, Netanyahu made the president happy. But he has poisoned relations with America.

I am going to say this as simply and clearly as I can: If you’re an American Jew and you’re planning on voting for Donald Trump because you think he is pro-Israel, you’re a damn fool.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Trump has said and done many things that are in the interests of the current Israeli government — and have been widely appreciated by the Israeli public. To deny that would be to deny the obvious. But here’s what’s also obvious. Trump’s way of — and motivation for — expressing his affection for Israel is guided by his political desire to improve his re-election chances by depicting the entire Republican Party as pro-Israel and the entire Democratic Party as anti-Israel.

As a result, Trump — with the knowing help of Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu — is doing something no American president and Israeli prime minister have done before: They’re making support for Israel a wedge issue in American politics.

Few things are more dangerous to Israel’s long-term interests than its becoming a partisan matter in America, which is Israel’s vital political, military and economic backer in the world.

Do not be fooled: Netanyahu, through his machinations with Senate Republicans, can get the United States Congress to give him an audience anytime he wants. But Bibi could not speak on any major American college campus today without massive police protection. The protests would be huge.

U.S. Culture / Religion

washington post logoWashington Post, Mormon Church rules out green tea, vaping and drinks ending in ‘-ccino.’ Medical marijuana is okay, though, Marisa Lati, Aug. 16, 2019. Washington Post, The church clarified its interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, its dietary rules meant to keep members from consuming unhealthy substances. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants to make clear that vaping, green tea and fancy coffee drinks are off limits under the religion’s dietary code meant to keep members from consuming unhealthy substances.

Church leaders on Thursday pointed to a recent article in New Era, the church’s magazine for young people, reminding them that the Word of Wisdom prohibits “hot drinks” — understood to mean tea and coffee — and harmful or habit-forming substances. E-cigarettes are highly addictive, “iced tea is still tea,” and any drink ending in “-ccino” probably has coffee and therefore breaks the rules, the church wrote.

Still, experts and church members said the clarifications raised as many questions as they answered: Why is iced tea off limits if it’s cold? What’s the church’s stance on coffee-flavored desserts? Are drinks with green-tea extract okay?

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, A teen walked out with a $2 beer. The store clerk chased him down and shot him to death, Meagan Flynn, Aug. 16, 2019. Seventeen-year-old Dorian Harris was already on his way out the door when the store clerk, Anwar Ghazali, grabbed his gun, pointing it over the counter with two hands.

Harris had spent about seven seconds inside the store. The Top Stop Shop in Memphis was busy that night, about 10 p.m. on March 29, 2018, and when the unarmed teenager waltzed through the door, he didn’t waste any time being sneaky. Dressed in purple pants and a hoodie, he grabbed a $2 beer from the shelf in plain view of Ghazali, turned and left, as the clerk raced around the counter.

Ghazali burst toward the door past bewildered customers milling near the counter. Beverly Loverson was one. She saw Harris and the beer, and Ghazali and the gun, “and as he passed me,” she remembered while testifying on the stand this week, “I said, ‘Don’t kill him. Don’t kill him. It’s just a beer.’”

Epstein Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Alleged co-conspirator of Epstein lived a low-key life in a tony seaside town, neighbors say, Frances Stead Sellers, Aug. 16, 2019. The whereabouts of Ghislaine Maxwell, whose name emerged in connection with a previous case against the financier, have been a mystery for quite some time.

Aug. 15

jeffrey epstein sex offender

washington post logoWashington Post, Autopsy finds broken bones in Epstein’s neck, deepening questions around his death, Carol D. Leonnig and Aaron C. Davis​, Aug. 15, 2019 (print ed.). Experts say a broken hyoid bone happens in suicide by hanging but is more typical in homicide by strangulation.

An autopsy found that financier Jeffrey Epstein sustained multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to two people familiar with the findings, deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death.

Among the bones broken in Epstein’s neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam’s apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said.

The details are the first findings to emerge from the autopsy of Epstein, a convicted sex offender and multimillionaire in federal custody on charges of sex trafficking. He died early Saturday morning after guards found him hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and he could not be revived.

Forbes, Jeffrey Epstein Spent Time Alone With Young Female Prison Visitor, Richard Behar, Aug. 15, 2019. The day after he was taken off suicide watch, disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein spent at least two hours locked up alone with a young woman, in a private room reserved for inmates and their attorneys, according to an attorney who was visiting the prison that day.

"The optics were startling. Because she was young. And pretty,” said the visiting attorney, who asked that his name not be used because he didn’t want to create friction with the prison administration. NBC News has reported that Epstein paid his lawyers to sit with him in a room for eight hours a day for attorney-client meetings, allowing him to avoid his cell.

New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (Photo by Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons)

The visiting attorney went to the Manhattan Correctional Center (shown in a Jim Henderson photo via Wikimedia) on July 30, a day after Epstein was reportedly taken off suicide watch and transferred into the Special Housing Unit (SHU). During the hours the visiting attorney was present, it wasn’t Epstein’s main lawyer, Reid Weingarten, or other named attorneys who visited him.

“If I was him, I would have hired... an old bald guy,” said the lawyer, who said the young woman was in there with Epstein for at least two hours when he was there. He also pointed out that the room is locked when prisoners go in, after their handcuffs are removed, and unlocked only when prisoners leave and handcuffs are put back on.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Where in the World Is Ghislaine Maxwell? Kate Briquelet, Lachlan Cartwright and Dana Kennedy, Aug. 15, 2019. As the British socialite’s alleged boyfriend denies she’s holed up at his Massachusetts home, a friend tells The Daily Beast that Ghislaine Maxwell is lying low in France.

Police are reportedly scrambling to find the 57-year-old British socialite—and accused madam of deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein—as she faces a new lawsuit from one victim who alleges Maxwell gave “organizational support to Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring” and procured “underage girls for Epstein’s sexual pleasure.”

Daily Mail, Jeffrey Epstein had a painting of Bill Clinton wearing a blue dress and red heels and lounging in the Oval Office inside his Manhattan mansion , Isolde Walters, Aug. 14, 2019. Visitor reveals bizarre image inside pedophile's $56m lair. Jeffrey Epstein had a painting of Bill Clinton wearing a blue dress and red heels hanging inside his Manhattan home

The picture depicting the former president apparently lounging on a chair in the Oval Office, wearing red heels and posing suggestively in a blue dress redolent of Monica Lewinsky was in a room off the stairway of the Upper East Side townhouse.

The dress is also strikingly similar to one worn by Hillary Clinton at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors.

The original painting is called 'Parsing Bill' and is by Australian-American artist Petrina Ryan-Kleid, although it is unclear if Epstein had bought the canvas or had a print mounted. Ryan-Kleid exhibited for her degree show when she graduated with an MFA in 2012 from the New York Academy of Art.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous, was visiting Epstein to present a business proposal

She told DailyMailTV: 'It was absolutely Bill Clinton. It was shocking... it was a very provocative, sexual picture'

real news networkThe Real News Network, Commentary: Epstein May Be Just One Part of an Intricate Network of Sex and Power, Marc Steiner, Aug. 15, 2019 (16:44 min. video). Journalist Whitney Webb's MintPress series looks at the sordid history tying together mobsters, oligarchs, and government intelligence agencies in a web of blackmail, exploitation, and profit

David Icke, Opinion: Epstein: Gateway to the Global Cesspit, David Icke (who has been exposing elite paedophiles and Satanists for decades), Aug. 15, 2019 (68:23 min. video).

Israel Blocks Visit

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Presses Israel to Block Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Isabel Kershner, Aug. 15, 2019. President Trump called for Israel to bar the entry of two U.S. congresswomen, in an extraordinary step to influence an ally and punish his political opponents. “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit,” he tweeted.

donald trump twitterDemocratic Representatives Ilhan Omar (MN), right, and Rashida Tlaib (MI) were scheduled to begin a tour of the West ilhan omar oBank on Sunday.

Israel is still weighing whether to deny entry. Both women have been vocal in their support of the Palestinians and the boycott-Israel movement.

OpEdNews, Israel to Ban Omar and Tlaib From Entry, Rob Kall, Aug. 15, 2019. It's been decided. Israel will not allow U.S. congressional representative Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to enter the country. This is after Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer stated that they WOULD be allowed.

What changed is Donald Trump has let it be known he wants Israel to ban Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel. And Israel failing to act like an independent nation of integrity, bowed to malignant narcissist psychopath Trump's whim.

ny times logoisrael flagNew York Times, Israeli law denies entry to outspoken foreign supporters of a movement to boycott the country, Niraj Chokshi, Aug. 15, 2019.  Israel has used the law, passed in 2017, to deny entry to outspoken foreign supporters of a movement to boycott the country.

World Economy

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Whipsaw as Traders Face Conflicting Trade War Signals, Alexandra Stevenson and Amie Tsang, Aug. 15, 2019. Stocks in the United States rose on Thursday after a sharp decline the day before, as upbeat economic data and a conciliatory statement from the Chinese government eased investors’ anxiety about the impact on global growth of the trade war between the two countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Recession signals intensify in the U.S., other leading economies, Damian Paletta, Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford, Aug. 15, 2019 (print ed.). The U.S. stock market tumbled to its worst day of the year after a reliable predictor of looming recessions flashed for the first time since the run-up to the 2008 crisis.

• What is an ‘inverted yield curve’ and why is it spooking investors?
• 9 key countries are on the verge of recession, driving fears the U.S. could follow

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pushed Mnuchin to label China a currency manipulator, a move he had resisted, Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker, Aug. 15, 2019. The treasury secretary had repeatedly refused to designate China as a currency manipulator because its currency moves didn’t meet the Treasury’s established criteria for that action.

Order Helps Child Migrant Prisoners

ny times logoNew York Times, A federal court ruled that detained migrant children must be provided with basic hygiene supplies like toothbrushes, Caitlin Dickerson, Aug. 15, 2019. A federal appeals court panel ruled on Thursday that the government must provide detained migrant children with basic hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes and sleeping mats, ending a debate that incited national outrage after a Justice Department lawyer argued against the need to do so.

ICE logoThe exchange in June between the lawyer and a panel of openly aghast federal judges spread rapidly in the national media. The case grew in significance days later, when a group of lawyers told reporters they had observed distressed migrant children held in cramped, dirty conditions and without sufficient food or clean water at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Tex.

The lawyers said they saw infants being cared for by other detainees, some as young as 7 years old.

Lawmakers sprang into action, decrying the conditions. Hundreds of children were transferred out of the station, which was cleaned up, and the top Border Patrol agent who oversaw the facility was reassigned before resigning from his job.

The ruling by a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit strengthens protections for children being held in detention after crossing the border without authorization. It is the latest development in a protracted legal battle over the standards that have been in place for more than two decades, established as part of a settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit brought in 1985, known as the Flores agreement.

washington post logoICE logoWashington Post, Authorities believe poultry companies intentionally hired undocumented workers, search warrants say, Hannah Denham, Aug. 15, 2019. There were clear signs that the companies raided last week were hiring people who could not legally work in the country, the unsealed warrants allege.

Public Health Breakthrough

ny times logoNew York Times, Cure Found for Deadliest Strain of Tuberculosis, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Aug. 14, 2019. Once, a diagnosis of extensively drug-resistant TB meant quick death. A new drug regimen cures most patients in just months.

Media: Amazon PR Campaign

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Uses a Twitter Army of Employees to Fight Criticism of Warehouses, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Aug. 15, 2019. They love working there. It’s great. They love it. It’s great. They love it. It’s great. They love it. It’s great. They love it. It’s great. They love it.

amazon logo smallOn Wednesday evening, a phalanx of Amazon employees known as “FC ambassadors” began tweeting again about how great it is to work at Amazon.

When the ambassadors see others on social media discussing the brutal working conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers, its anti-union actions or anything else unflattering about the company, they step in to offer an on-the-ground perspective.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Labor Dept. Moves to Expand Religion Exemption for Hiring and Firing, Noam Scheiber, Aug. 15, 2019. The Labor Department has proposed a rule that would allow more federal contractors to base employment decisions on religion, a move that rights advocates said could be used to discriminate against workers for all manner of reasons.

labor department logoThe proposal, announced on Wednesday, seeks “to provide the broadest protection of religious exercise recognized by the Constitution and other laws,” the Labor Department said in a statement. It applies to a wide variety of organizations and companies that claim a religious goal as part of their mission.

Naomi Goldberg, policy research director of the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank focused on equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said the “proposed rule would permit taxpayer-funded discrimination.”

ny times logoNew York Times, After Romance With Russian Agent, Overstock C.E.O. Takes Aim at ‘Deep State,’ Michael Corkery, Aug. 15, 2019.  He was the chief executive of, a publicly traded e-commerce retailer. She was an ambitious graduate student from Russia. The relationship between Patrick Byrne and Maria Butina became widely known on Monday, when his company issued a news release about it.

They met at a libertarian conference in Las Vegas in July 2015, where they discussed Milton Friedman, Anton Chekhov and John Locke.

He was the philosophizing founder and chief executive of, a publicly traded e-commerce retailer that sells discount furniture and bedding. She was an ambitious graduate student from Russia.

maria butina headshotIt was the start of a three-year relationship between the e-commerce executive, Patrick Byrne, and the young woman, Maria Butina, left,that became romantic at times. She is now serving 18 months in prison after being accused by federal prosecutors of trying to infiltrate powerful political circles in the United States at the direction of the Russian government. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Mr. Byrne’s relationship became widely known on Monday, when his company took the unusual step of issuing a news release that called attention to it. In the release, which was put out in response to a report that Mr. Byrne had been involved in the federal inquiry into the 2016 presidential election, Mr. Byrne said that he had been helping law enforcement agents, whom he referred to as “Men in Black,” with their “Clinton Investigation” and “Russia Investigation.”

The release, titled “ CEO Comments on Deep State,” sent the company’s shares plummeting more than 30 percent over the next two days, while opening an intriguing new chapter in the tale of Ms. Butina and her connections to influential Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. officials shield Ivanka Trump’s and Mike Pence’s projects in review of foreign aid, John Hudson, Aug. 15, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration has decided to shield the signature projects of White House adviser Ivanka Trump,right, and Vice President Pence as it looks to cancel billions of dollars in foreign aid for other projects around the world, U.S. officials said.

ivanka trump twitter portraitIn coming days, the White House is expected to send a proposal to Congress for returning billions of dollars of unspent foreign aid funds to the Treasury in a process known as rescission. Officials say they will safeguard funding for global health programs.

Because U.S. aid agencies often do not designate funds until the end of a fiscal year, the White House could claw back between $2 billion and $4 billion in foreign aid projects approved by Congress for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

Senior Republicans and Democrats say the review threatens to undermine Congress’s authority to appropriate funds, but U.S. officials insist they are targeting only projects that are unnecessary or of questionable value.

Dying Newspapers

Commonwealth Magazine, ‘No more real newspaper’ in Worcester, Michael Jonas, Aug. 15, 2019. The "Ghost Newspaper" era has arrived in Massachusetts, and the worst is almost certainly yet to come.

The state has not yet been hit with vast news deserts, the term of the media moment to describe areas without any newspaper presence following the closure of more than 1,800 US papers since 2004. But the land is becoming so parched of substantive news coverage as to make it the next closest thing. “Ghost newspaper” is the label researchers are using for publications that still churn out a daily issue, but one that is a shell of its former self.

We now have these spectral offerings in abundance.

The latest chapter in the relentless hollowing out of Massachusetts media came with news that columnist Clive McFarlane, a 26-year veteran of the Worcester Telegram, was shown the door. The Worcester Business Journal says he was one of six staffers let go at the paper.

The news prompted a blunt assessment from Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty. “There is no more real newspaper in the city of Worcester,” he told a local radio show.

As MassLive reports, McFarlane’s ouster was just the latest blow to the paper covering New England’s second largest city since it was acquired by the GateHouse chain in 2014.

gatehouse media logoThe bloodletting at the Telegram this week was by no means the only Massachusetts hit in the vast GateHouse portfolio. The nonprofit Poynter media center says two reporters were cut at each of three other GateHouse papers: The Cape Cod Times, the New Bedford Standard-Times, and the Fall River Herald News. The Worcester Business Journal says the Herald News now has no full-time staff photographers.

GateHouse, which owns most of the daily papers in central and eastern Massachusetts, and Gannett, the country’s two largest newspaper chains, recently announced merger plans. New York University business professor Michael Posner predicts the merger will only hasten the continued demise of US newspapers, which have seen their business model decimated by internet advertising and online news distribution.

McFarlane, the deposed Telegram columnist, posted a message on Facebook slamming the “indignity of corporate management.”

“After 26 years writing for this community, I was unceremoniously shown the door today by Gatehouse, deprived even of the long-established protocol of allowing a columnist to bid farewell to his readers,” he wrote.

In 2013, the Telegram was acquired by John Henry from the New York Times Co. in a package deal with the Boston Globe. He soon made it clear he didn’t intend to keep the paper. But Worcester leaders and editors at the paper say he vowed to sell only to a local buyer, as chronicled in this CommonWealth story. “I think you need a local owner,” Henry told a newsroom gathering when he showed up in Worcester in November of that year. “This is not a forced sale. If we don’t find the right owner, you’re stuck with me.”

Months later Henry sold the paper to a Florida-based company, Halifax Media Group, whose major shareholders were three private equity firms. The following year, Halifax was acquired by GateHouse.

U.S. Supreme Court On Guns

ny times logolinda greenhouse cover just a journalistNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court’s Second Amendment Appetite, Linda Greenhouse (shown on the cover of her memoir about covering the court), Aug. 15, 2019. Back in January, I devoted my first column of the new year to the growing impatience of some members of the court for a chance to move the boundaries of the Second Amendment from the home — where its 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller had located the amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms — out to the wider world. A few weeks later, the court agreed to hear the first Second Amendment case in nearly a decade.

Heller was a 5-to-4 decision, and Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the principal dissenting opinion, indicated in a memoir published shortly before his death last month that Justice Antonin Scalia, the majority opinion’s author, had to compromise to hold his majority.

His opinion deemed the right to keep a handgun at home for self-defense as the “core” Second Amendment right and continued: “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The court thus left undefined both what it was protecting beyond the “core” and how vigorously courts should scrutinize restrictions that extend out from the home or that deal with other kinds of firearms.

U.S. 2020 Campaign

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Hickenlooper’s graceful exit sets a standard, Jennifer Rubin, Aug. 15, 2019. Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is getting out of the presidential race. His exit video was classy and responsible. Judging from the video’s tone and production value, I’d put good money on him running for Senate in Colorado. Recent polls show him clobbering Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in what would be a critical pickup for the Democrats. Other presidential candidates should take note.


washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic priest found guilty of sexually abusing girls at his Northwest D.C. parish, Keith L. Alexander​, Aug. 15, 2019. Urbano Vazquez, 47, served at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Columbia Heights. Federal prosecutors argued Vazquez preyed on underage girls and used his position of influence and trust at the church to gain access to his victims.

Failed U.S. Power Play

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. moves to block release of Iranian supertanker held in Gibraltar, Erin Cunningham​, Aug. 15, 2019. The surprise move, which came hours before the tanker was expected to set sail, added to a months-long saga over the vessel. The United States moved Thursday to block the release of an Iranian supertanker held in Gibraltar just hours before the vessel was expected to set sail, local authorities said.

The U.S. Justice Department lodged a last-minute appeal to seize the tanker, which was carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil when it was detained near Gibraltar in July.

The surprise move added to the months-long saga over the tanker, which authorities suspected was taking the crude to the Syrian port of Baniyas, in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran called its seizure an “act of piracy” and threatened to retaliate against British shipping assets in the Persian Gulf. Last month, Iranian naval forces raided and detained the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.

SouthFront, Gibraltar Authorities Release Iranian Supertanker Grace 1, Wire and staff reports, Aug. 15, 2019. Gibraltar authorities have released the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported on August 15.

“The Government of #Gibraltar has now received formal written assurances from the Iranian government that the ship will not discharge its cargo in Syria … On that basis, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has decided to lift the detention order and allow the ship to sail,” the Gibraltar Chronicle reported.

The fate of the British tanker remains unclear. However, the release of Grace 1 will likely encourage Iran to release it very soon.

U.S. Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect surrenders after shooting six police officers in hours-long Philadelphia standoff, Maura Ewing, Reis Thebault, Michael Brice-Saddler, Timothy Bella and Marisa Iati, Aug. 15, 2019. A suspect surrendered just after midnight after shooting six police officers in a north Philadelphia neighborhood on Wednesday evening, igniting a standoff that dragged on for hours in what authorities called a hostage situation.

The suspect is Maurice Hill, a 36-year-old Philadelphia resident with a history of gun convictions, his former lawyer, Shaka Johnson, told The Washington Post. Philadelphia Police Sgt. Eric Gripp confirmed on Twitter early Thursday that the suspect is in custody.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pushed Mnuchin to label China a currency manipulator, a move he had resisted, Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker, Aug. 15, 2019. The treasury secretary had repeatedly refused to designate China as a currency manipulator because its currency moves didn’t meet the Treasury’s established criteria for that action.

Aug. 14

Climate Changeclimate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: 2°C: Beyond the Limit: Extreme climate change has arrived in America. Here are the fastest-warming places, Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin and John Muyskens, Aug. 14, 2019 (print ed.). A Post analysis of data from across the Lower 48 states found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, a crucial marker in international climate change policy. How has your county changed? Our interactive tool can tell you.

In the past century, the Earth has warmed 1 degree Celsius. But that’s just an average. Some parts of the globe — including the mountains of Romania and the steppes of Mongolia — have registered increases twice as large. It has taken decades or in some cases a century. But for huge swaths of the planet, climate change is a present-tense reality, not one looming ominously in the distant future.

In Lake Hopatcong, thinning ice let loose waves of aquatic weeds that ordinarily die in the cold. This year, a new blow: Following one of the warmest springs of the past century, harmful bacteria known as blue-green algae bloomed in the lake just as the tourist season was taking off in June.

• Five takeaways from The Post’s analysis

Epstein Probes

New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (Photo by Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons)

New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (Photo by Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons)

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary, More details about Epstein's circle of friends seep out, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 14, 2019 (subscription required). As more questions fly about concerning the August 10 so-called suicide of uber-wealthy and politically connected pedophile Jeffrey Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan, so, too, is information about how far and wide Epstein’s circle of friends extended during the height of his international sex trafficking.

ny times logoNew York Times, First Person Commentary: Jeffrey Epstein Raped Me When I Was 15, Jennifer Araoz (Ms. Araoz has filed a lawsuit against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein), Aug. 14, 2019. Now I’m suing his estate and accomplices.

During my freshman year, one of Epstein’s recruiters, a stranger, approached me on the sidewalk outside my high school. Epstein never operated alone. He had a ring of enablers and surrounded himself with influential people. I was attending a performing arts school on the Upper East Side, studying musical theater. I wanted to be an actress and a singer.

The recruiter told me about a wealthy man she knew named Jeffrey Epstein. Meeting him would be beneficial, and he could introduce me to the right people for my career, she said. When I confided that I had recently lost my father and that my family was living on food stamps, she told me he was very caring and wanted to help us financially.

The trap was set.

The visits during the first month felt benign, at least at the time. On my second visit, Epstein also gave me a digital camera as a gift. The visits were about one to two hours long and we would spend the time talking. After each visit, he or his secretary would hand me $300 in cash, supposedly to help my family.

But within about a month, he started asking me for massages and instructed me to take my top off. He said he would need to see my body if he was going to help me break into modeling. I felt uncomfortable and intimidated, but I did as he said. The assault escalated when, during these massages, he would flip over and sexually gratify himself and touch me inappropriately. For a little over a year, I went to Epstein’s home once or twice a week.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Just what is going on with Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy? Bill Palmer, Aug. 14, 2019. Earlier this week Palmer Report bill palmer report logo headerexplained that the autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein had taken a strange and controversial turn. The government announced that the autopsy had been completed but the results weren’t being announced yet, even as Epstein’s estate hired a guy from the OJ trial to perform an autopsy of his own.

Crime, Courts

NBC News, ASAP Rocky found guilty of assault but spared jail in Swedish trial, Phil Helsel and Linda Givetash, Aug. 14, 2019. The case has nbc news logoattracted widespread attention, with Kim Kardashian West, Rod Stewart and even President Donald Trump calling on Swedish authorities to release the rapper.

Rapper ASAP Rocky was found guilty of assault Wednesday by a Swedish court but will avoid further jail time. The rapper was handed a asap rocky twittersuspended sentence after the court found that the assault was not "of such a serious nature" as to warrant more time behind bars.

Rocky, shown in his Twitter photo, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested in Stockholm in July after he and two members of his entourage got into a street brawl with Mustafa Jafari, 19.

Prosecutors asked the court to convict Mayers, 30, and sentence him to at least six months in jail. But Per Lennerbrant, the senior judge presiding over the case, said the prosecution failed to prove the extent of the seriousness of the attack. However, the rapper and his entourage were not without fault, the court found. "The artist is convicted of his own use of violence," Lennerbrant said through a court translator.

Immigration Battles

ny times logoNew York Times, Why an Heiress Spent Her Fortune Trying to Keep Immigrants Out, Nicholas Kulish and Mike McIntire, Aug. 14, 2019. Cordelia Scaife May, an heir to the Mellon fortune, went from an environmental-minded socialite to an ardent nativist whose money helped sow the seeds of President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda.

She was an heiress without a cause — an indifferent student, an unhappy young bride, a miscast socialite. Her most enduring passion was for birds.

But Cordelia Scaife May eventually found her life’s purpose: curbing what she perceived as the lethal threat of overpopulation by trying to shut America’s doors to immigrants.

ny times logo

U.S. Stock Markets / Growth

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow loses 800 points as recession signs emerge around the world, Damian Paletta, Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford​, Aug. 14, 2019. President Trump’s trade war, slowing growth in Europe and China, and other economic turmoil sent investors fleeing stocks and into safe havens such as gold and long-term government bonds.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Slide as Bond Market Signals Rising Concern About Growth, Staff report, Aug. 14, 2019. Stocks dropped on Wednesday, as the bond market signaled rising concern about the economy and data from Germany showed the country could be veering toward a recession.

german flagThe German government reported that its economy shrank in the three months ending in June. The largest economy in the eurozone, Germany has become particularly vulnerable to the trade war playing out between the United States and China because of its dependence on manufacturing and exports. A second quarter of decline would mean Germany is technically in a recession.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump panics as the “Trump economy” goes off a cliff, Bill Palmer, Aug 14, 2019. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has plummeted around 700 points thus far today. It’s now dropped a total of around 1600 points over the past two weeks, meaning that – by stock market standards at least – about six percent of the U.S. economy has gone poof since the month started. Naturally, Trump is blaming everyone but himself – and he’s getting frantic about it.

bill palmer report logo headerAt 11:39 am eastern time, Donald Trump posted a tweet blaming the Federal Reserve for the freefall. Then at 11:51 am he seemed to blame China. Somewhere in there he sent Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on television to try to turn wilbur rossthings around, but no one could tell what the half-asleep Ross, right, was babbling about. At 12:42 pm, Trump tried delusion as a strategy, tweeting: “Tremendous amounts of money pouring into the United States. People want safety!” By 1:15 pm, he was back to blaming the Federal Reserve.

What stands out through all of this is that every time Donald Trump said something in the hope of turning things around, the stock market then dropped even lower. Wall Street investors know full well that Trump is a two-bit criminal who’s spent his entire life going bankrupt and who’s never made a dollar that he didn’t steal, and that he has no idea how economics works. Whatever the “Trump economy” is, it’s in freefall.

U.S. Politics / Media

MSNBC, Mitch McConnell at nexus of increased Russian leverage on U.S., Rachel Maddow, Aug. 14, 2019. Rachel Maddow shares details from a recent Pentagon white paper about how Russia secures its influence over other countries' politics and notes that Mitch McConnell's role in facilitating an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in his home state of Kentucky, among other things, aligns with Russia's strategy.

Black America Web, Donna Brazile Says ‘Trump Has Nothing To Do’ With Mass Shootings, DL Hughley,  The Fox News pundit dismissed Trump's hateful rhetoric. 

Donna Brazile is now over at Fox News and it appears she has been indoctrinated by the propaganda network. She is dismissing Trump’s racist rhetoric by saying he has “nothing” to do with the mass shootings.

While on Fox News Radio this weekend, Brazile said, “This conversation about race and racism, domestic terrorism, white supremacy, white nationalism, it is that I am profoundly saddened as an American. The reason why is to point fingers and the plate is so-called blame game.”

She continued, “President Trump had nothing to do with the maniac, and I’m being gracious here, the maniac who shot up a Walmart store. He had nothing to do with the person who shot up you know the bar in Dayton. This is unbecoming of a country. The President of United States you know should not be blamed for you know these individual killers. But what we have to hold each other responsible for is our tone. We all have to set a tone.”

Sounds like Brazile does’t understand the impact of Trump’s tone. In addition, people in El Paso, Texas disagree with her.

Aug. 13

U.S. Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials seek to deny citizenship, green cards for legal immigrants getting public benefits, Abigail Hauslohner and Nick Miroff​, Aug. 13, 2019 (print ed.). Legal immigrants who use public benefits — such as Medicaid or food stamps — could have a tougher time obtaining U.S. citizenship under a policy change that is at the center of the Trump administration’s effort to reduce immigration. See related story below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Broadens Assault on Immigration With Wealth Rule, Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan, Aug. 13, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump on Monday broadened his assault on the nation’s immigration system, issuing a new rule targeting legal immigrants who want to remain in the United States but whose lack of financial resources are judged likely to make them a burden on taxpayers.

ICE logoThe new regulation is aimed at hundreds of thousands of immigrants who enter the country legally every year and then apply to become permanent residents. Starting in October, the government’s decision will be based on an aggressive wealth test to determine whether those immigrants have the means to support themselves.

Poor immigrants will be denied permanent legal status, also known as a green card, if they are deemed likely to use government benefit programs such as food stamps and subsidized housing. Wealthier immigrants, who are designated as less likely to require public assistance, will be able to obtain a green card.

Officials said the program would not apply to people who already have green cards, to certain members of the military, to refugees and asylum-seekers, or to pregnant women and children. But immigration advocates warned that vast numbers of immigrants, including those not actually subject to the regulation, may drop out of programs they need because they fear retribution by immigration authorities.

Trump Watch

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump's war on children now extends to defenseless animals, Wayne Madsen, Aug 13, 2019. Further pushing his cruelty from caged migrant children separated from their families at the southern border to yet other children coming home from school in Mississippi to find their parents having been hauled off by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detention centers, Donald Trump has now turned his attention to needlessly harming animals.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, From race to plastic straws, Trump dials up culture wars in divisive play for votes, Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker, Aug. 13, 2019 (print ed.). Trump is deliberately amplifying public tensions by seizing on divisive topics to energize his base, campaign aides say. 

China Trade War

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump delays some China tariffs to limit effect on holiday shopping, Damian Paletta and Heather Long, Aug. 13, 2019. The administration said it would push back penalties on a range of Chinese imports, including cellphones, laptops and footwear, until Dec. 15. Stocks rose after the news.

Epstein Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Epstein Was Left Alone for Hours in Jail, and One Guard Was a Substitute, Ali Watkins, Katie Benner and Danielle Ivory, Aug. 13, 2019 (print ed.). Only one of the two people guarding Jeffrey Epstein normally worked as a correctional officer, according to three prison officials.

Jeffrey Epstein was not checked on for hours in the Manhattan jail where he died, and one of his guards was not a full-fledged officer, officials said. Attorney General William Barr said Mr. Epstein’s suicide would not halt the investigation into others who might have helped traffic girls for sex.

ny times logoNew York Times, First Person Opinion: The Day Jeffrey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Powerful People, James B. Stewart, Aug. 13, Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University 2019 (print ed.). Our columnist went to Mr. Epstein’s Manhattan mansion last year to talk about Tesla. They ended up discussing much more.

Almost exactly a year ago, on Aug. 16, 2018, I visited Jeffrey Epstein (right) at his cavernous Manhattan mansion.

The overriding impression I took away from our roughly 90-minute conversation was that Mr. Epstein knew an astonishing number of rich, famous and powerful people, and had photos to prove it. He also claimed to know a great deal about these people, some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jeffrey Epstein and When to Take Conspiracies Seriously, Ross Douthat, Aug. 13, 2019. Sometimes conspiracy theories point toward something worth investigating. A few point toward the truth.

No, you still don’t want to listen to QAnon, or to our disgraceful president when he retweets rants about the #ClintonBodyCount. But just as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s network of clerical allies and enablers hasn’t been rolled up, and the fall of Bryan Singer probably didn’t get us near the rancid depths of Hollywood’s youth-exploitation racket, we clearly haven’t gotten to the bottom of what was going on with Epstein.

#MeToo: Suit Deadlines Extended

ny times logoNew York Times, He Says a Priest Abused Him. 50 Years Later, He Can Now Sue, Rick Rojas, Aug. 13, 2019. New York joined more than a dozen others this year in significantly extending statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse. Groups including the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts are bracing for a deluge of legal action.

boy scouts logo customMajor institutions across New York State, from the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts of America to elite private schools, are bracing for a deluge of lawsuits now that adults who said they were sexually abused as children will be entitled to pursue formal legal action.

New York joined more than a dozen states this year in significantly extending statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse. Previously, the state had required that such suits be filed before a victim’s 23rd birthday.

Under the new law in New York, the Child Victims Act, which was approved by the Legislature in January, accusers will be able to sue until they are 55.

#MeToo: Opera Star

placido domingo file

Opera star Placido Domingo (file photo)

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Opera legend Placido Domingo accused of sexual harassment, Jocelyn Gecker, Aug. 13, 2019. Numerous women told the Associated Press that Domingo (78, profiled on Wikipedia and on his own site), tried to pressure them into sexual relationships by dangling jobs and in some cases punishing them when they refused his advances.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN’s Chris Cuomo threatened to throw a man down stairs for calling him ‘Fredo,’ comparing it to the n-word, Meagan Flynn, Aug. 13, 2019. A profanity-laced video surfaced Monday night showing CNN anchor Chris Cuomo threatening to throw a man down cnn logothe stairs for calling him “Fredo,” referring to the fictional character Fredo Corleone from “The Godfather” films.

andrew cuomoBut the core of the backlash centered on one claim from Cuomo: that calling an Italian person “Fredo” was comparable to using the n-word — an assertion that had many Italian Americans scratching their heads and other critics calling Cuomo out of bounds.

“Are any of you Italian?” Cuomo (shown in a file photo) asked the group of men involved in the confrontation. “It’s an insult to your people. ... It’s like the n-word for us.”

On Monday night, CNN also said it stood by the host.

“Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup,” CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said in a statement on Twitter. “We completely support him.”

Cuomo found support in unlikely corners, ranging from rival Fox News host Sean Hannity to onetime White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, while his critics spanned Trump 2020 campaign representatives and other journalists.

Hong Kong Protests

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong airport cancels flights for second day as protesters reoccupy terminal, Gerry Shih and Timothy McLaughlin, hong kong skyline from victoria peak wikimedi CustomAug. 13, 2019. Anti-government protesters brought chaos to Hong Kong’s airport for a second consecutive day Tuesday, forcing airlines to suspend check-in for departing flights, as demonstrators extended their standoff with authorities who have been unable to quell months of dissent.

Hong Kong's skyline is shown above from a view at Victoria's Peak.

After mass cancellations the previous evening, flights had been gradually returning to normal throughout Tuesday, even as thousands of black-clad demonstrators returned to occupy the terminal with placards denouncing police brutality and calling for freedom for Hong Kong.

Arguments erupted between frustrated passengers and protesters, with some stranded passengers crying and saying they just wanted to get home.

U.S. Politics: Israeli Pressures

U.S. House Speaker Steny Hoyer (D-MD), right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu file unsourced

U.S. House Speaker Steny Hoyer (D-MD), listens at right to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Unz Review, Opinion: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: Israel's man in the House of Representatives, Philip Giraldi (think tank leader and former CIA officer, shown at right), Aug 13, 2019. It is astonishing philip giraldithat in the wake of the two mass killings in Dayton and El Paso that have been attributed both by the media and the Democrats to “racism,” a senior U.S. Congressman has led a delegation of 41 of his Democratic Party colleagues plus spouses on a week-long luxury all-expenses-paid trip to Israel, which is one of the few countries in the world that defines its full citizenship as a matter of race and religion.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland is, however, apparently tone deaf to some critics of the annual excursion, having made the pilgrimage to Israel more than fifteen times. “I am pleased to join so many House Democrats in traveling to Israel to reaffirm our support for a critical U.S. ally and to continue learning about the opportunities and the challenges facing Israel and the Middle East,” he said shortly before departing for Tel Aviv.

Hoyer did not mention how he had managed to pull together such a large group of co-conspirators in spite of critical issues that need to be confronted at home during recess in town hall meetings, which, due to the trip, will operate on a short schedule if at all. As Majority Leader, he is reported to be skilled at strong-arming new colleagues to compel them to make the trip to demonstrate the loyalty of the U.S.

Congress and the Democratic Party to the Jewish state, which is his top priority. According to The Intercept (see Mondoweiss, Opinion: Hoyer and 41 Democrats visit Israel on AIPAC-affiliated junket that violates ‘spirit as well as the letter of the law’ by Josh Ruebner), “Hoyer…uses his power over the House floor agenda to coerce participation. A member who refuses an invitation can find it difficult to have their bills brought to the floor for a vote. ‘His senior staff lock down cooperating members by getting their bills to the floor and punishing non-cooperators,’ said one former representative who rejected the invitation. ‘I was tortured for a decade because I refused to go on that trip…’”

Of course, the Israelis are themselves seasoned professionals when it comes to mass shooting, something that they do every Friday across the fence into Gaza, but they are unlikely to demonstrate their marksmanship to the visiting congressmen. They in any event know that Israel will never be condemned in fora like the United Nations Security Council because of the exercise of Washington’s veto.

Hoyer and company are the reason that there is such a veto even though Israel is a serial war criminal and human rights violator, so in a sense he and his Democratic Party friends are the reason why the Jewish state believes itself empowered to behave so badly. And, lest anyone is worried about bipartisanship, the Republicans too have a delegation in Israel headed by House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy consisting of 31 congressmen. The 72 congressmen from both parties constitute one of the largest delegations ever to travel to to the Jewish state.

Hoyer is a bought and paid for Israeli puppet and a big part of his job is to make sure that new Congressmen and women are adequately brainwashed regarding what is going on in the Middle East. Maryland’s Democratic Party has long been dominated by Jews from Baltimore and Montgomery County and Hoyer has successfully cultivated Jewish congressmen to advance his career. He has benefited directly from $320,025 pro-Israel PAC donations to fund his reelection campaigns and has undoubtedly also received generous donations from individual Jews and from organizations not organized as PACs.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation  that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Details here.

Aug. 12

Mass Shootings: El Paso

ny times logoNew York Times, How the El Paso Killer Echoed the Words of Conservative Media Stars, Jeremy W. Peters, Michael M. Grynbaum, Keith Collins, Rich Harris and Rumsey Taylor, Aug. 12, 2019 (print ed.).There is a striking overlap of language used by right-wing media personalities and the words of the El Paso gunman, a review by The Times found. Once-extremist terms for immigration, like “invasion” and “replacement,” have become familiar to fans of Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Died Shielding Their Baby in El Paso. Their Family’s Anguish Was Only Beginning, Sarah Mervosh, Aug. 12, 2019. Jordan and Andre Anchondo were among the 22 people killed by a gunman at a Walmart store in El Paso Aug. 3. Their families said the couple died protecting their infant son.

She was a young mother, busy juggling family dinners, cheerleading practices and trips to the park with her three small children. He was a self-starter who had opened his own business and spent months painstakingly renovating a house for his family, with three bedrooms and granite countertops in the kitchen.

jordan anchondo andre anchondo walmart victims CustomBefore they became the latest faces of the toll of mass shootings in America — before their names were written on crosses at a memorial in El Paso, before their orphaned infant was held up in a photo opportunity with President Trump — Jordan and Andre Anchondo, right were just a young couple at the start of their lives together. They had recently had a baby boy, moved into their new home and celebrated their first year of marriage.

A gunman with an AK-47-style rifle and a plan to hurt Mexicans changed all of that. In the days since then, the Anchondos have been held up as symbols of tragedy, and their families have been thrust into the national spotlight — unsought attention that was made worse after Mr. Trump was photographed smiling and giving a thumbs-up alongside their baby.

Commentaries on Epstein Death

Below are links to notable expert commentaries, continued below, about the death of the wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, right, and the death's jeffrey epstein new mug cropped july 2019implications for the public:

Other Epstein Aftermath

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general blames federal jail for ‘failure’ to keep Epstein alive, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett​, Aug. 12, 2019. william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, right, said Jeffrey Epstein’s death would not deter the probe into who might have aided the politically connected financier’s alleged crimes.

The attorney general’s comments were noteworthy in that he publicly blamed the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, for the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s apparent suicide.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Wait a minute, WHO was watching Jeffrey Epstein when he died? Bill Palmer, Aug. 12, 2019. Earlier today, Attorney General Bill Barr tried to deflect responsibility away from himself when he pointed to “serious irregularities” at the jail where Jeffrey Epstein died. Based on his track record, no one can believe a word Barr says, and we wrote that it sounded like he was trying to pin the whole thing on lower level employees.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it turns out one of the guards watching Jeffrey Epstein on the night of his death “wasn’t a regular correctional officer” – whatever that’s supposed to mean – according to a surreal new report from the AP. To our ear, it sounds like some kind of staffing shortage resulted in someone guarding Epstein who wasn’t formally trained for that particular task.

This could indeed be the case, and it could explain how Jeffrey Epstein managed to commit suicide while he was under protective custody. This comes after the WSJ reported earlier today that it was Epstein’s lawyers who had him removed from suicide watch, which he’d been on since a suspicious incident two weeks ago. But there’s a catch to all this.

During the rollout of the redacted Mueller report, we saw Bill Barr repeatedly feed dubious claims to major news outlets, which they then turned around and reported as having been from a source “familiar” with the matter. In these instances it was painfully obvious that Barr himself was the source. Now we’ve got two major news outlets with unnamed sources who want to pin the blame on everyone but Barr. Considering Barr’s villainy, we’re taking all of this with a grain of salt.

ny times logoNew York Times, Epstein’s Opaque Finances Could Become a Focus for Investigators, Emily Steel, Matthew Goldstein, Steve Eder and David Enrich, Aug. 12, 2019 (print ed.). The question of where Jeffrey Epstein’s wealth came from is likely to be a focus after his death.

A convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker who surrounded himself with an elite network of business and political leaders, Mr. Epstein enjoyed the trappings of great wealth: private jets, mansions, his own island. But much remains unknown about the sources of his wealth.

Legions of lawyers, bankers and accountants have been trying in recent weeks to solve that mystery, and their quest is unlikely to end after Mr. Epstein was found dead on Saturday morning. The answers could illuminate how Mr. Epstein allegedly operated a long-running sex-trafficking operation, whether he had help from others and who — including Mr. Epstein’s victims — will receive any of his remaining assets. It is not known if Mr. Epstein had a will.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Epstein-Barr: “Justice” in a quasi-dictatorship known as the United States, Wayne DJT jeffrey epstein cheerleaders party cropped mar a logo screenshotMadsen (syndicated columnist, author and former Navy intelliegence officer), Aug. 12, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission).  One of the biggest threats to Donald Trump’s presidency – his former good friend and fellow uber-wealthy sex pervert Jeffrey Epstein – died in a federal detention center in Manhattan of what was officially termed a “suicide.”

Trump and Epstein are shown in a screenshot of them ogling cheerleaders at a wild party at Mar-a-Lago, which is located about a mile from the Palm Beach mansion where Epstein and his accomplices lured scores of Florida's junior high and high school girls for sexual encounters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Before Jail Suicide, Epstein Was Not Closely Monitored, Katie Benner, Danielle Ivory, Christina Goldbaum and Ashley Southall, Aug. 12, 2019 (print ed.). The disclosures about apparent failures in Mr. Epstein’s detention deepened the questions about his suicide. It was Friday night in a protective housing unit of the federal jail in Lower Manhattan, and Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of trafficking girls for sex, was alone in a cell, only 11 days after he had been taken off a suicide watch.

Just that morning, thousands of documents from a civil suit had been released, providing lurid accounts accusing Mr. Epstein of sexually abusing scores of girls.

us bureau of prisons logoMr. Epstein was supposed to have been checked by the two guards in the protective housing unit every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed that night, a law-enforcement official with knowledge of his detention said.

In addition, because Mr. Epstein may have tried to commit suicide three weeks earlier, he was supposed to have had another inmate in his cell, three officials said. But the jail had recently transferred his cellmate and allowed Mr. Epstein to be housed alone, a decision that also violated the jail’s procedures, the two officials said.

The federal Bureau of Prisons has already come under intense criticism for not keeping Mr. Epstein under a suicide watch after he had been found in his cell on July 23 with injuries that suggested he had tried to kill himself.

The law-enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said that when the decision was made to remove Mr. Epstein from suicide watch, the jail informed the Justice Department that Mr. Epstein would have a cellmate and that a guard “would look into his cell” every 30 minutes.

But that was apparently not done, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the death was still under investigation.

The city’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Barbara Sampson, announced on Sunday night that her office had conducted an autopsy of Mr. Epstein, but she declined to release a determination about the cause of death.

The medical examiner is confident the cause of death is suicide by hanging, but she wants more information from law enforcement before releasing her determination, a city official said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Controversy erupts over Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy report, Bill Palmer, Aug. 12, 2019. The autopsy of Donald Trump’s friend and serial child rapist Jeffrey Epstein, who died in federal custody over the weekend of an “apparent suicide,” has been completed. But if anyone was looking for answers, it turns out all we’re getting are more questions. The results of the autopsy aren’t being announced at this time – and now a controversial figure is involved in the autopsy.

bill palmer report logo headerEpstein’s estate sent Dr. Michael Baden to perform his own autopsy, according to the Daily Beast. Why is this a big deal? Baden has been involved in the forensics of cases ranging from OJ Simpson to Michael Brown over the years. Pretty much every case he gets involved in is controversial in one way or another.

Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, The UAE’s ambitions backfire as it finds itself on the front line of U.S.-Iran tensions, Liz Sly, Aug. 12, 2019 (print ed.). One of America’s staunchest allies in the Middle East and a driving force behind President Trump’s hard-line approach to Iran is breaking ranks with Washington, calling into question how reliable an ally it would be in the event of a war between the United States and Iran.

uae embassy sealIn the weeks since the United States dispatched naval reinforcements to the Persian Gulf to deter Iranian threats to shipping, the government of the United Arab Emirates has sent a coast guard delegation to Tehran to discuss maritime security, putting it at odds with Washington’s goal of isolating Iran. After limpet mines exploded on tankers off the UAE’s coast in June, the UAE stood apart from the United States and Saudi Arabia and declined to blame Iran.

It also announced a drawdown of troops from Yemen, where, alongside Saudi Arabia, it has been battling Iranian-backed Houthis for control of the country. That opened the door this past weekend to a takeover by UAE-backed separatist militias of the U.S.-supported government in the city of Aden, a further divergence from U.S. policy.

hong kong skyline from victoria peak wikimedi Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Protesters bring Hong Kong airport to a standstill as fears grow of Chinese military crackdown, Timothy McLaughlin and Anna Kam​, Aug. 12, 2019. Officials halted all departures at the airport, affecting tens of thousands of passengers at one of the world’s busiest international hubs. Hong Kong's skyline is shown above from a view at Victoria's Peak.

washington post logoWashington Post, Guatemala elects right-wing president amid dismal turnout, Sandra Cuffe, Aug. 12, 2019. Alejandro Giammattei will inherit a nation plagued by political scandal. Guatemala is the leading country of origin of migrants and asylum seekers apprehended at the U.S. southern border.

Guatemalans on Sunday elected Alejandro Giammatteialejandro giammattei 2019 w, right, as their next president. When he takes office Jan. 14, he will inherit a nation plagued by years of political scandal, where a recent surge in migration has laid bare the monumenta l challenges ahead.

Giammattei, the right-wing Vamos party candidate who is a former prisons director, beat out former first lady Sandra Torres for the next four-year term.

The presidential runoff election came at a crucial moment — as Guatemala prepares for the possible implementation of a “safe third country” agreement with the United States, a plan touted by the Trump administration but with potentially grave consequences for a country whose own citizens are fleeing in droves.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trial of former Obama White House counsel highlights crackdown on foreign-influence industry, Spencer S. Hsu​, Aug. 12, 2019. Gregory Craig, 74, is accused of lying to the Justice Department in connection with his work for the Ukraine government. He faces trial Monday for allegedly lying to the Justice Department in a prosecution that has shaken up the capital’s billion-dollar foreign influence industry.

In charging Craig — one of Washington’s most prominent attorneys, in connection with his work for the Ukraine government at a leading law firm — the Justice Department signaled a new era for the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a once nearly dormant law that since 2017 has been invoked in more than 20 federal prosecutions aimed at combating foreign interference in U.S. politics.

The charge against him stems from alleged public relations work, rather than lobbying, while with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He is accused not of failing to register as a foreign agent under the law, but with lying and withholding information from Justice officials seeking to determine whether he was required to register.

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump tops 12,000 false or misleading claims in under 950 days, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, Aug. 12, 2019. The president has made 12,019 false or misleading claims, adding about 20 a day in the past two months.

The Opioid Files

washington post logoWashington Post, As overdoses soared, nearly 35 billion opioids — half of distributed pills — handled by 15 percent of pharmacies, Jenn Abelson, Andrew Ba Tran, Beth Reinhard and Aaron C. Davis, Aug. 12, 2019. An analysis from The Washington Post reveals the pharmacies that ordered the most hydrocodone and oxycodone as the epidemic raged across the nation.

2020 U.S. Politics

The Hill, Gabbard taking two weeks off from campaign trail to report for active duty, Rebecca Klar, Aug. 12, 2019. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) is taking two weeks off the presidential campaign trail to report for active duty.

tulsi gabbard newGabbard told CBS News in an interview released Monday that she will be joining a training exercise mission in Indonesia. “I love our country, I love being able to serve our country in so many ways, including as a soldier. So while some people are telling me, like, ‘Gosh, this is a terrible time to leave the campaign, can you find a way out of it?’ You know, that's not what this is about," Gabbard, who's considered a long-shot candidate, said.

“I’m not really thinking about how this will impact my campaign, I’m looking forward to fulfill my service, my responsibility.”

The joint training exercise will focus on humanitarian aid, disaster response and counterterrorism, Gabbard told CBS. Gabbard served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and served in Kuwait from 2008 to 2009. She is one of three Democrats in the crowded primary field who have military experience, along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

Some Democrats have criticized Gabbard for an announced trip she took to Syria in 2017 to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo. Her primary opponent Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called Gabbard an "apologist" for Assad.

"I have no regrets and make no apologies for pursuing diplomacy, understanding that the only alternatives to diplomacy is war," she told CBS. "We need leaders who will have the courage to meet with brutal dictators, to meet with adversaries in the pursuit of our national security, in the pursuit of keeping the American people safe, and in the pursuit of peace."

U.S. Wildlife

washington post logoWashington Post, New Trump rules weaken wildlife protections, shrink habitats that animals and plants rely on for survival, Darryl Fears​, Aug. 12, 2019. The changes to the Endangered Species Act come months after a U.N. report warned that 1 million species face extinction because of human activity.

Aug. 11

New Reporting On Epstein

washington post logoWashington Post, Epstein’s death leaves prosecutors with prime target: Ghislaine Maxwell, Marc Fisher, Aug. 11, 2019. According to many of the women who have spoken about what the financier allegedly did to them, Maxwell was Jeffrey Epstein’s chief co-conspirator. She has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. People familiar with the investigation said authorities have had trouble locating her.

Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001

For someone who stood by Epstein through the most sordid allegations, Maxwell was also a factor in his downfall: It was through a 2015 defamation lawsuit filed against Maxwell by one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre that thousands of pages of documents containing detailed accounts of Epstein’s alleged abuses became public last week.

Guiffre, who says she was recruited by Maxwell after being a towel-girl at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club , is shown at center in a 2001 photo with Maxwell at right and Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

Johanna Sjoberg, a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University when she said Maxwell hired her as an assistant, said in a 2015 deposition that was released Friday that it was Maxwell’s job to ensure that three girls a day were made available to Epstein for his sexual pleasure.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It was inevitable’: Officers watching Epstein were on overtime due to jail staffing shortage, union president says, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Aug. 11, 2019. Giuffre said Maxwell recruited her in 2000, when she was 16 or 17 and working at Donald Trump’s Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago. Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy was completed Sunday, but the medical examiner said she has not made a determination about his cause of death and is awaiting “further information.”

Trump Watch: Immigration Judges

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Moves to Muffle Border Judges, Christina Goldbaum, Aug. 11, 2019 (print ed.). The Justice Department has moved to decertify the union of immigration judges, a maneuver that could muffle an organization whose members have sometimes been openly critical of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement agenda.

ICE logoThe department filed a petition on Friday asking the Federal Labor Relations Authority to determine whether the union, the National Association of Immigration Judges, should have its certification revoked because its members are considered “management officials” ineligible to collectively organize, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

The move suggested escalating tensions between overwhelmed immigration judges desperate for greater resources and a Justice Department pushing them to quickly address a backlog of immigration cases.

“This is a misguided effort to minimize our impact,” said Judge Amiena Khan, vice president of the judges’ union, which has publicly criticized the use of a quota system in immigration court and other attempts to speed up proceedings.

U.S. Politics / Trump, Scaramucci fires back at Trump: He will turn 'on everyone' and then 'entire country,' Justin Wise, Aug. 11, 2019. Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci denounced President Trump early Sunday, arguing that he would eventually turn on everyone in his circle.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 cropped"For the last 3 years I have fully supported this President," Scaramucci said on Twitter. "Recently he has said things that divide the country in a way that is unacceptable. So I didn’t pass the 100% litmus test. Eventually he turns on everyone and soon it will be you and then the entire country."

The comments from Scaramucci came less than 24 hours after Trump railed against the former White House aide over his recent comments about the administration.

Scaramucci last week called Trump's visit to El Paso, Texas to meet with survivors of a mass shooting a "catastrophe."

"Anthony Scaramucci, who was quickly terminated (11 days) from a position that he was totally incapable of handling, now seems to do nothing but television as the all time expert on 'President Trump.'" Trump tweeted late Saturday night.

He added that Scaramucci "knows very little about me...other than the fact that this Administration has probably done more than any other Administration in its first 2 1/2 years of existence."

donald trump twitter"Anthony, who would do anything to come back in, should remember the only reason he is on TV, and it’s not for being the Mooch!" Trump said.

Scaramucci was ousted from his job as White House communications director in July 2017 after a chaotic 11-day stint. In the years since, he hasn't hesitated to criticize the administration while appearing on television talk shows.

msnbc logo CustomAppearing on MSNBC last Thursday, the former Trump aide said that the president's trip to El Paso was a "catastrophe."

“Maybe he’ll tweet something negative about somebody for saying he didn’t do well, but the facts are he did not do well on the trip because if the trip is being made about him and not the demonstration of compassion and love and caring and empathy for those people, then it becomes a catastrophe for him, the administration, and it’s also a bad reflection on the country," Scaramucci said.

After Trump attacked four minority congresswoman last month, Scaramucci said that the president could be "turning into" a racist.

"I don't think the president is a racist," Scaramucci said on BBC's "Today." "But here's the thing, if you continue to say and act in that manner, then we all have to look at him and say, OK, well, maybe you weren't a racist, but now you're turning into one."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just picked a fight with Anthony Scaramucci and somehow managed to lose, Bill Palmer, Aug. 11, 2019. Regardless of whatever competent things he may have done in his other walks of life, most people will remember Anthony Scaramucci as the bill palmer report logo headerguy who was so astoundingly bad at being a political adviser, he only managed to last eleven days in a Trump White House where just about anything goes.

But now Donald Trump has picked a fight with The Mooch, and has somehow managed to lose.

washington post logoWashington Post, American fencer kneels on medal stand during anthem, tweets about Trump and gun control, Jacob Bogage, Aug. 11, 2019 (print ed.). A member of the U.S. fencing team knelt on the podium during the national anthem and medal ceremony Friday at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, saying on Twitter: "We must call for change.”

Race Imboden, an Olympic medalist and part of the men’s foil team that won gold at the Pan American Games, wrote on Twitter that he was honored to represent Team USA at the event, but his pride was “cut short” by “shortcomings” of his country.

“Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list," he wrote in a series of tweets. "I chose to [sacrifice] my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed. I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change.”

Epstein Death Commentaries (Continued), Opinion: Jeffrey Epstein's suicide makes no sense, Bernard B. Kerik (right, former New York City corrections commissioner and poliice chief) Aug. 10, 2019. Accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s death bernard kerik portraitthis morning — reportedly a suicide, according to federal officials — is an inexplicable end to a bizarre, tragic case that only got more disturbing the more we learned about it.

The fact that one of the country’s highest-profile federal prisoners could even commit suicide defies all logic and belief.

His death raises doubts about officials’ actions. The FBI says it will investigate; Attorney General William Barr says he is “appalled” by what happened; members of Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are demanding answers. Indeed we all need answers, before we lose all faith in our justice system.

But the most basic question, in my mind, is why Epstein was in solitary confinement in the first place — something so totally inappropriate for a prisoner already at risk of suicide.

Epstein, a billionaire financier with powerful friends in the worlds of business and politics, pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to sex crimes and served a few months in jail. He was reindicted this summer in New York on charges of sex trafficking underage girls and had been in federal custody ever since.

He tried to commit suicide less than two weeks ago and, we were told, was placed in solitary confinement and under a suicide watch.

So how in the world could he commit suicide?

There is a valid use for solitary confinement in a penal institution. If you’re a threat to the institution or a threat to its staff, an escape risk or a threat to national security, then solitary confinement should be considered.

But not in this case. Jeffrey Epstein — in spite of his previous pleas or the new, serious charges — was none of the above.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which had custody over Epstein, and federal prosecutors certainly knew his earlier suicide attempt was real. Yet, instead of putting him into an administrative segregation unit — into a real, true suicide watch — they put him into solitary confinement and, in so doing, enabled him to finish what he had tried before.

Was that their intent? Who knows, but it raises serious questions about his death and the investigation surrounding him.

There is nothing worse than taking a suicidal prisoner and sticking him into a solitary confinement cell. Common sense and any psychologist, any corrections professional, will tell you that — so why was it done in this instance?

In solitary confinement there is a 15-minute “watch” rule, but that is not the same as a “suicide watch.” A prisoner can asphyxiate himself in 90 seconds and, after eight minutes or so, he will be brain dead.

That’s exactly why around-the-clock supervision is necessary when a prisoner is classified as suicidal. And it requires constant supervision, in person or by technology — cameras.

So why was Epstein placed in “solitary” in the first place? After his first attempt, were his cell and his supervision changed? Was he watched constantly by cameras in his cell, or only checked sporadically? Was he allowed to have objects that he could use to attempt suicide again, after having done so once before? How could a prisoner hang himself — as Epstein did, according to early reports — and no guard would immediately see it or react? Why, given his previous attempt and all of the issues surrounding his case, wasn’t a supervisory officer watching him constantly and able to respond immediately?

None of this makes any sense, at least at this point.

The crime here — in my mind, with what is known at this point — is that Epstein was placed in solitary confinement at all. The government often uses every tool in its power to ensure you never have a fair day’s fight in court, including the use of psychological tools to force you to plead guilty or to force you to cooperate with the government.

But one thing already is crystal clear: There are flaws and failures in the U.S. criminal justice system that should disturb all of us. And in Jeffrey Epstein’s case, none of it makes any sense.

Bernard B. Kerik was the first deputy and commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, 1995-2000. As commissioner of the NYPD from 2000 through 2001, he oversaw its response to the 9/11 attack. He pleaded guilty in 2006 to ethics violations and was fined, then pleaded guilty in 2009 to eight federal charges, including tax fraud and false statements, which led to his 48-month sentence in a federal prison. He is the founder of the Kerik Group, providing homeland security, police and correctional training, criminal justice and prison-reform strategies.

Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of Achievement

Retail mogul Leslie Wexner, Jeffrey Epstein's friend (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of Achievement

SouthFront, Jeffrey Epstein RIP: But Many More Questions Remain to be Answered, Philip M. Giraldi (former CIA officer), right, Aug. 11, 2019. The Jeffrey Epstein saga philip giraldigoes on even though convicted pedophile Epstein himself has been found hanged in his jail cell in Manhattan.

So, he is dead but did he do it himself or was he helped? There are many prominent individuals and powerful government agencies that will be very pleased that he is gone as most of his secrets will have gone to the grave with him.

There was certainly a warning that something might happen. Two weeks ago, he was reportedly found unconscious in his jail cell with marks around his neck. It was suggested that he might have tried to kill himself or, alternatively, had been beaten up by another inmate. There was also considerable speculation that some aggrieved part of the Deep State was trying to kill him to silence him.

The subsequent press reports revealed that Epstein had been taken to a hospital, but there has been no follow-up about his condition or status apart from a brief note that he had been returned to the same jail under suicide watch. In any event, the story had pretty much died, which is precisely what a lot of the high rollers and politicians who became involved with Epstein would have liked to see happen. Nevertheless, investigations of the “Affair Epstein” reportedly were continuing at the federal level as well as in New York State and Florida.

The most recent elaboration of the Epstein saga prior to his death came from his former patron Leslie Wexner, the canny Jewish business tycoon who built an Ohio based fashion empire called L Brands from scratch. L Brands, by the way, includes Victoria’s Secret, which features young women strutting around in their underwear. The 81 year old Wexner claimed in a 564 word letter that the wily Epstein “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him. In the letter Wexner admitted to having lost at least $46 million from his family money, but some media accounts are suggesting that the fraud amounted to much more, possibly as much as $500 million. And the alleged theft also extended to property, to include the series of transactions that left Epstein possessing the Upper East Side mansion where he resided and did his filming of celebrities having sex with young girls, estimated to be worth $56 million, as well as the commercial airliner that became the Lolita Express and a yacht.

My belief that Jeffrey Epstein was an intelligence agent is based principally on Acosta’s comments when being cleared by the Trump transition team. He was asked “Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” … “Acosta testified that he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had ‘been told’ to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. ‘I was told Epstein belonged to intelligence and to leave it alone.’”

The questions about Epstein remain even though he is gone, but one fears that the authorities will be disinclined to further investigate a dead man. It appears that no one in the various investigative agencies or the mainstream media has been interested in what Acosta meant, even though it would be simple enough to ask him. Who told him to back off? And how did they explain it? And then there is Epstein’s Austrian passport. Was it fake or real, with a real name and photo substitution or alternation of both picture and name? How did he get it? Austrian passports are highly desirable in intelligence circles because the country is neutral and its holders can travel just about everywhere without a visa.

mossad seal CustomAnd there’s more. As a former intelligence officer myself, there is little doubt in my mind that what Epstein did and how he did it was an intelligence operation. There is no other viable explanation for his filming of prominent politicians and celebrities having sex with young girls. And as for the question of whom Epstein might have been working for, the most likely answer is Mossad. The CIA would have had no interest in compiling dossiers on prominent Americans, but American movers and shakers like Bill Clinton, with his 26 trips on the Lolita Express, former Governor Bill Richardson, or former Senator George Mitchell are precisely the types of “agents of influence” that the Mossad would seek to coerce or even blackmail into cooperation.

Other compelling evidence for a Mossad connection came from Epstein’s relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell, who reportedly served as his key procurer of young girls. Ghislaine is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, who died or possibly was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in 1991. Maxwell was an Anglo-Jewish businessman, very cosmopolitan in profile, like Epstein, a multi-millionaire who was very controversial with what were regarded as ongoing ties to Mossad. After his death, he was given a state funeral by Israel in which six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence listened while Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said.”

Israel and high-profile Jewish players also have continued to turn up like bad pennies in the Epstein case, but no one seems to be interested in pursuing that angle. Epstein clearly had contact with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak and Wexner also had close tiesto the Jewish state and its government.

barry krischer alex acosta CustomBarry Krischer, who may have been the source of the comments to Acosta (shown at right with Krischer in file photos), has received the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) award. Evidence also suggests that Krischer, cooperating with rabidly pro-Israel Epstein lawyer Alan Dershowitz, played a key role in the failure to adequately punish Epstein for his conviction for pedophilia.

According to a recent New Yorker story, the police investigators of the Epstein case observed that “the tone and tenor of the discussions of this case with Krischer changed completely” after his meetings with Dershowitz. At that point, the two detectives most involved in the case found themselves under extreme pressure. They were surveilled constantly by private investigators and they even had their household trash snatched and searched. And the resulting plea agreement with Krischer “…was due to the efforts of Dershowitz, who had proceeded to attack and smear the victims.”

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer, is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, which seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide is unfathomable, Harry Litman (a law professor, right, and former U.S. harry litman msnbc screenshotattorney and deputy assistant attorney general), Aug. 11, 2019 (print ed.). For anyone familiar with Bureau of Prisons standard operating procedures, Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide is more than mysterious; it is unfathomable.

The 66-year-old accused sex trafficker was found dead in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC) Saturday morning, apparently after having hanged himself.

The Bureau of Prisons, the federal agency that runs the MCC, has said the FBI will investigate. Epstein’s death almost certainly means that astounding blunders occurred, perhaps by multiple personnel at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

If any prisoner in the federal system should have been a candidate for suspicion of suicide, it was the high-profile and disgraced Epstein. All administrative and structural measures should have been in place to ensure it could not happen. And yet it apparently did.

First, consider the MCC itself. It is a high-rise, forbidding administrative detention facility in the south of Manhattan. Its population consists almost entirely of prisoners, like Epstein, awaiting trial in federal court in Manhattan. It has been referred to as the “Guantanamo of New john gotti mug shotsYork” for its stringent security measures. It is the facility of choice for notorious federal defendants, often in special administrative segregation units, having previously housed John Gotti (shown in 1990 mug shots), Bernard Madoff, Omar Abdel Rahman and, recently, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

In other words, it is the very place to put a high-profile and potentially suicidal defendant such as Epstein.

Second, consider the BOP’s suicide prevention protocol. Epstein was found last month unconscious in his MCC cell with marks on his neck. If he was not on suicide watch, it would be astonishing. Yet if he were on suicide watch, his death would be virtually inconceivable.

The BOP’s suicide prevention protocol entails, first and foremost, human eyes on the prisoner 24 hours a day. It also requires a strict deprivation of anything — shoelaces, sheets, pillowcases — that could possibly be used to hang oneself. It also requires disabling anything that could be used to tie a noose — vents, sprinkler heads, etc.

Finally, we are not talking about inexperienced yokels. BOP personnel, especially at MCC, are the best professionals in the corrections industry, and they receive special training in administrating suicide prevention. Who better to guard against such a horrific development?

At this point, questions abound, and BOP has to address them promptly.

  • The first: Was Epstein on suicide watch, and if not, why not?
  • The second: How exactly did Epstein manage to kill himself, and why exactly was it that he had access to the tools?
  • Third, is there a video of Epstein’s cell at the crucial time? There should be, and it will reveal exactly how and when Epstein killed himself.
  • jeffrey epstein trumps cropped ghislaine maxwell Photo by Davidoff Studios Getty Images vanity fair

    Jeffery Epstein,  highlighted, with the Trumps and Ghislaine Maxwell, right (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)

David Talbot via Facebook, Opinion: The "suicide" of Jeffrey Epstein, David Talbot (right, best-selling author of "The Devil's Chessboard," david talbot facebook"Season of the Witch" and "Brothers" and Founder of the Salon Media Group), Aug. 11, 2019 (updated). Well, it's official —- we now live in a criminal, lawless nation where people who know too much about the sleazy lives of the rich and powerful can be "suicided" to death — even when they're on suicide watch in a New York City jail cell!

The "suicide" of Jeffrey Epstein — oh what the hell, let's call it what it really was, a politically necessary execution — reeks of the "suicide" of Craig Spence back in 1989.

Spence, below, a Republican lobbyist with deep ties to the Reagan presidency, ran a Washington call-boy service and, like Epstein, had the craig spencegoods on many of America's decadent elite. After his sex racket exploded in the headlines, Spence told friends he would probably be murdered — a termination that would be called a suicide. And guess what? In November 1989, Spence was indeed found "suicided" in a Ritz Carlton hotel room in Boston.

The list of prominent names on whom Jeffrey Epstein had secret dirt — including video and photos — is endless. It includes, of course, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. And Epstein's ties to intelligence services, including U.S. and Israeli agencies, are equally obvious.This is how the elite — and the secret police under their command — operate. Key witnesses get paid off or permanently disappeared. But the Epstein case is so fucking obvious it shows that the U.S. oligarchy has become so cocky it doesn't even pretend to be lawful anymore.

A final note on this flaming conspiracy to silence the latest man who knew too much.

For decades, the corporate media have been ridiculing and condemning those who believe that power in the U.S. often operates in darkly clandestine ways. The New York Times, Washington Post, TV networks et al have worked feverishly to marginalize the deep investigative work done by citizen researchers and independent journalists (including me) to shed light on the national security assassination of President Kennedy. Eye-opening investigations into 9/11 — and the undeniable web of connections between Saudi royalty and the hijackers, U.S. agencies' foreknowledge of the hijacker plots, and the Bush-Cheney administration's coverup of inconvenient 9/11 truths — also are routinely blacked out by the mainstream media.

But in the wake of this Epstein bombshell, now, the C-word (as in conspiracy) is even creeping into the prose of NY Times columnists like Paul Krugman. Sometimes the criminality at the top of America becomes so brazen, so obvious that even our press watchdogs are stirred from their slumber.

robert maxwell with papers fileThere is much information that suggests a connection between Epstein and Israeli intelligence. His top deputy and procuress was Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late Robert Maxwell, left, — British media tycoon, swindler and spy (for Israeli and British intelligence). Epstein was also set up mysteriously in the high-end investment game — despite being woefully unqualified — by the lingerie billionaire Les Wexner, a major benefactor of Israel, whose large mossad seal Customdonations to Ehud Barak have become an issue in the current Israeli election.

Epstein was also infamously and aggressively defended by lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a prominent spokesman for the Israeli government. Epstein was operating a classic "honeytrap" -- spy parlance for a sex trap that ensnares powerful peopIe and makes them vulnerable to blackmail from security agencies. I should note that I don't believe Mossad would operate on U.S. soil without agreement or even partnership with US intelligence.

jeffrey epstein gurney cropped emergency room

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein could have ‘paid’ for help with suicide: Former Gotti pal, Brad Hamilton, Aug. 11, 2019. The jail where Jeffrey Epstein (shown on an emergency room gurney on Aug. 10 in an uncredited photo via Twitter) apparently hanged himself was a nest of corruption in the early ’90s, according to one of late mobster John Gotti Sr.’s top associates — who insists it’s still a place where almost anything can be bought if you have the bucks.

“If he killed himself someone had to have helped him,” said Lewis Kasman, a onetime close confidant of the Dapper Don who visited the godfather several times at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in 1992.

“There are cameras going 24/7 and they’re watching 24/7. Someone had to give [Epstein] the equipment to kill himself and he had to pay for it dearly,” said Kasman, who has kept abreast of conditions in the lockup.

Kasman added: “That facility for years had issues of corruption, with correction officers bringing in food or cellphones for wealthy people.”

The former Gambino bean counter noted that Gotti, who did time both in the jail’s 9 South and 10 South units, its most secure wings, still managed to get his favorite steak dinner sneaked in: “He had Peter Luger’s whenever he wanted.”

william barr new oKasman said he heard US Attorney General William Barr, right, personally made a hush-hush trip to the MCC two weeks ago, about the time Epstein was found in his cell with bruises around his neck. “When does that happen?” he asked. “The attorney general never visits jails. Something’s not right there.”

Kasman said the facility was “totally disgusting — worse than Guantanamo Bay.” “There are roaches crawling all over you — in every orifice — when you sleep. The Bureau of Prisons’ answer to that is that they can’t spray. It’s toxic.”

New York Magazine, A Former U.S. Attorney on Where Epstein’s Legal Cases Will Go After His Death, Matt Stieb, Aug. 10, 2019. Facing a criminal case for sex trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy, multiple civil cases by alleged victims, and a Department of Justice inquiry into his wrist-slap plea deal in Florida, Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide has opened a flurry of questions about the future status of his legal proceedings.

As for the criminal charges, those are effectively kaput: As former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti explains, “Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide ends the criminal case against him because no one else was charged in the indictment.”

Many questions — not to mention full-blown conspiracy theories — remain. How much more about Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring will come to light? Will others be indicted? What might we find out from the FBI and Department of Justice inquiries into Epstein’s suicide? To help weigh these questions, Intelligencer spoke with former U.S. Attorney and New York contributor Barbara McQuade about where the legal proceedings involving the sex offender go from here.

Other questions asked and answered:

  • How much information about Epstein and his co-conspirators will never be known because the criminal case against him closes with his death?
  • What about Epstein’s knowledge, now lost, of his own alleged crimes? I’m thinking about passwords, knowing where records are, information like that.
  • Does his death make it less likely that charges will be brought against other people?
  • How might this affect the civil cases by his victims against his estate, or the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General investigation into the plea deal?

Vanity Fair, Trump’s Epstein Response: The Clintons Are Definitely Pedophile Murderers, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Aug. 11, 2019. The president plumbed new depths by retweeting conspiracy theories about Epstein’s suicide, in lieu of making a public statement.

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide was shocking enough without factoring in how President Trump might react to it. The commander-in-chief and former Epstein confidant was perhaps uncharacteristically quiet in the weeks following the disgraced financier’s arrest this summer, especially as rumors swirled that Epstein held dirt on some of the world’s most powerful people. How then, would he respond to news of Epstein’s shocking demise?

Why, by accusing a former president and ex-political opponent of subverting his own justice department to arrange Epstein’s murder, of course. That’s just where we are now.

Hours after word of Epstein’s death by suicide arrived, Trump broke any semblance of restraint, indirectly addressing his former Mar-A-Lago buddy-turned-political liability. Rather than issuing a prepared statement, the president opted to retweet self-proclaimed comedian and commentator Terrence K. Williams’s assertion that Bill and Hillary Clinton were behind Epstein’s death.

“Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen,” Williams wrote, citing reports of Epstein’s association with Bill Clinton and a #TrumpBodyCount hashtag that had circulated earlier. “#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead. I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not Surprised #EpsteinSuicide #ClintonBodyCount #ClintonCrimeFamily.”

Immediately before that, Trump also retweeted a post from BNL News that read “BREAKING: Documents were unsealed yesterday revealing that top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophilia island.’” Trump also squeezed in a contented jab about pushing back on media narratives.

Trump’s tweets served as yet more evidence of the president’s tendency to embrace unfounded conspiracy theories targeting his political enemies; previously, he winked at intimations that Texas senator Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK, and spent years embracing the racist allegation that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. While the Friday release of court documents related to Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking did place Bill Clinton — and Trump himself — as a passenger on several of Epstein’s flights, there have been precisely zero corroborated links between Epstein’s alleged crimes and Clinton, and nothing suggesting that the Clintons, who for decades have been accused of all manner of criminal conspiracies, could have a hand in Epstein’s death.

“President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York,” Clinton spokesman Angel Urena said in response to speculation about the former president’s connection to the disgraced financier last month. "He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”, What Do All These People Have In Common? Charles Burris, Aug. 11, 2019:

James Forrestal (1949), Frank Olson (1953), Ernest Hemingway (1961), Josefa Johnson (1961), Henry Marshall (1961), Marilyn Monroe (1962), Phillip Graham (1963), John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1963), J. D. Tippet (1963), Lee Harvey Oswald (1963), Karyn Kupcinet (1963), Grant Stockdale (1963), Gary Underhill ( 1964), Bill Hunter (1964), Jim Koethe (1964), Guy Bannister (1964), Mary Sherman (1964), Mary Pinchot Meyer (1964), Malcolm X (1965), Dorothy Kilgallen (1965), Lisa Howard (1965), Nancy Carole Tyler (1965), Lee Bowers (1966), Desmond FitzGerald (1967), David Ferrie (1967), Eladio del Valle (1967), Jack Ruby (1967), Martin Luther King (1968), Robert Francis Kennedy (1968), Thomas Merton (1968), Mary Jo Kopechne (1969), Winston Scott (1971), Malcolm Wallace (1971), Lucien Sarti (1972), Thomas Davis (1973), Richard Cain (1973), Dave Yarras (1974), Sam Giancana (1975), Jimmy Hoffa (1975), Roland Masferrer (1975), Johnny Roselli (1976), George De Mohrenschildt (1977), Charlie Nicoletti (1977), Carlos Prio (1977), William Sullivan (1977), Nelson Rockefeller (1979), Frank Nugan (1980), Jimmy Hoffa (1982), Kevin Mulcahy (1982), Vicki Morgan (1983), Danny Casalaro (1991), Vince Foster (1993), Kenneth Trentadue (1995), William Colby (1996), Ron Brown (1996), Steve Kangas (1999), Katharine Graham (2001), Gary Webb (2004), Michael Kreca (2006), Robert Vesco (2007?), Deborah Jeane Palfrey (2008), Antonin Scalia (2016), and Seth Rich (2016).

Like Jeffrey Epstein, they all died from very suspicious deaths.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Bill Barr just gave something away about Jeffrey Epstein’s death, Bill Palmer, Aug. 10, 2019. Donald Trump’s cartoonishly corrupt Attorney General Bill Barr has issued a statement sayin he’s “appalled” that Jeffrey Epstein died while in federal custody, and he’s going to get to the bottom of what really happened. This statement was met with well-deserved eye rolls across the board – but he actually gave something away in the process.

bill palmer report logo headerNo one believes that Bill Barr wants to get to the bottom of Jeffrey Epstein’s death. This is the same guy who “got to the bottom” of the Mueller Report, the Trump-Cohen payoff scandal, and the death of Eric Garner by burying the investigations as best he could. But whatever happened to Epstein, this whole thing has become bigger than Barr. It turns out Barr knows it, too.

In his statement, Bill Barr said it’s the Department of Justice Inspector General who will be handling the investigation into Epstein’s death. Why does this matter? In general, the Inspector General is the one person in the DOJ with a degree of autonomy from the Attorney General’s influence.

michael horwitz headshotMore to the point, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, right, has consistently shown that he’s unwilling to protect the Trump regime or anyone else. In his IG report into the Hillary Clinton email investigation, he essentially said there should have been no email investigation to begin with, shutting down Trump’s insistence that the FBI went easy on Clinton. Recently, Horowitz announced that James Comey didn’t break any laws by coming forward about Trump’s crimes, shutting down Trump’s insistence that Comey was a criminal leaker.

By handing off the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s death to the DOJ Inspector General, Bill Barr is throwing up his hands and letting this go wherever it’s going to go. Barr is giving away that he knows this whole thing is far bigger than he is, and that he can’t stop this from heading wherever it’s heading.

Aug. 10

Epstein Dead

jeffrey epstein new mug cropped july 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein Commits Suicide at Manhattan Jail, William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 10, 2019. Mr. Epstein, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges last month, hung himself and his body was found this morning.

Epstein, shown in his mug shot, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges last month, committed suicide at a Manhattan jail, officials said on Saturday.

Mr. Epstein hung himself and his body was found this morning at roughly 7:30 a.m.

Manhattan federal prosecutors last month charged Mr. Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14, and details of his behavior have been emerging for years.

New Epstein Revelations

jeffrey epstein trumps cropped ghislaine maxwell Photo by Davidoff Studios Getty Images vanity fair

Jeffery Epstein,  highlighted, with the Trumps and Ghislaine Maxwell, right (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘She was shaking’: Court filings describe system Jeffrey Epstein allegedly used to procure girls, Beth Reinhard, Marc Fisher, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.).  Newly unsealed documents lay out disturbing details about the financier’s alleged abuse and the number of people in his orbit who could have observed them.

Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001He demanded sex three times a day. A parade of powerful figures visited his private estates, which were adorned with pictures of naked girls and stocked with sex toys. And the schedules of teenagers on call to give him massages at his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion were documented in phone messages from his assistants.

Roberts, at center, claimed that Epstein farmed her out to other men, including Prince Andrew of the British royal family, left. The California native said the photo at left portrays her at center with Prince Andrew, also known as the Duke of York, on a trip to London when she was 17 in 2001. At right was Ghislaine Maxwell, the socialite daughter of the corrupt newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, who drowned in 1991 after toppling overboard from his yacht Lady Ghislaine. 

Those and other claims about financier Jeffrey Epstein unsealed in court filings Friday lay out disturbing details both about his alleged activities and the number of people in his orbit who could have observed them, raising new questions about how the sex abuse charges against the multimillionaire were previously handled.

Epstein, who is now facing federal sex trafficking charges involving the alleged abuse of dozens of minors, previously pleaded guilty in Florida state court to two felony counts, serving about 13 months in jail. A federal judge ruled in February that the prosecution team led by then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, who recently resigned as President Trump’s labor secretary, violated the rights of alleged victims by failing to notify them of an agreement not to bring federal charges.

Epstein Death Details

jeffrey epstein gurney cropped emergency room

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein dead in apparent suicide, Larry Celona and Eileen AJ Connelly, Aug. 10, 2019. Convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein (shown on an emergency room gurney on Aug. 10 in an uncredited photo via Twitter) died overnight in an apparent suicide, law enforcement sources told the Post Saturday.

A gurney carrying a man who looked like Epstein was wheeled into New York Downtown Hospital around 7:30 a.m. A call for a reported cardiac arrest came in at 6:38 a.m., Fire Department sources said. Two weeks ago, Epstein, 66, was placed on suicide watch after he was found nearly unconscious in his cell with injuries to his neck.

The multimillionaire financier was being held without bail pending trial on child sex-trafficking charges. Epstein was busted July 6 over the alleged sexual abuse of dozens of young girls in his Upper East Side townhouse and his waterfront mansion in Palm, Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005. He pleaded not guilty and faced up to 45 years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeffrey Epstein dead after apparent suicide in New York jail, Matt Zapotosky and Renae Merle, Aug. 10, 2019 (at 11:43 AM). What you need to know about disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

Jeffrey Epstein, the politically connected financier and registered sex offender charged recently with sexually abusing dozens of young girls in the early 2000s, has died by apparent suicide while in jail and the FBI is investigating, the Bureau of Prisons said Saturday.

Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell in the special housing unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City about 6:30 a.m., the Bureau of Prisons said. Lifesaving measures “were initiated immediately by responding staff,” who then requested aid from emergency medical services, the bureau said.

Epstein was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the bureau said. ABC News, which first reported the incident, said that Epstein had hanged himself.

The Bureau of Prisons called the death an “apparent suicide,” though one official cautioned that the investigation was in its early stages and no final determination had been made. Aja Davis, a spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner, said that her office was investigating the death.

Daily Mail, Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, 66, kills himself in his Manhattan jail cell, 24 hours after files in his case were unsealed and two weeks after he was placed on suicide watch ahead of his sex trafficking trial, Andrew Court, Aug. 10, 2019.

  • Jeffrey Epstein has hanged himself inside his New York City jail cell
  • He was discovered by prison guards in cardiac arrest on Saturday morning, and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead
  • Epstein was arrested on July 6 on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking, and was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center without bail
  • He was reportedly placed on suicide watch following after a first suicide attempt on July 24
  • Epstein's death comes just 24 hours after court documents detailing his sexual abuse of underage girls were unsealed by the courts
  • The explosive documents included claims from Epstein's alleged 'sex slave' that she was required to have intercourse with a number of powerful men, Opinion: AUDIO: Jeffrey Epstein DEAD FOR HOURS On Suicide Watch With Cameras In Cell Before EMS Arrived, Laura Loomer, Aug. 10, 2019 at 11 a.m. (EDT). People are asking how Jeffrey Epstein “committed suicide” when he was on suicide watch and being monitored by multiple guards and cameras.

Exclusive sources for tell us that at around 6:20 am EST, Manhattan Correctional Center (MCC) requested First Responders for an inmate who was found unresponsive.

Jeffrey Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive this morning in his cell in his bed, and was cold to touch when correctional officers entered to wake him for breakfast. Our sources say that there were no injuries visible and they began chest compressions while EMS were en route.

Epstein was being detained for his upcoming trial for child and human sex trafficking and a barrage of other charges. Sources tell us that food vendors, all correctional officers who have been in contact with Epstein, as well as his water supply are being investigated following his suspicious death that is being reproted as a suicide.

Two weeks ago in a declared failed attempt to commit suicide, Epstein was placed on suicide watch. This means that aside from his cell being monitored remotely 24 hours a day by at least TWO cameras in his cell, 30 min round checks were also conducted by correctional officers.

There are reports from MSM claiming that Epstein hung himself which are categorically FALSE. Epstein’s body was cold to touch which means he had been dead for at least 4 hours, and if he had hung himself, one of the TWO cameras in his cell would have alerted the officers monitoring them. The reports being pushed through MSM are contradictory to that which our exclusive sources and the EMS recording states.

There would not have been a way for Epstein to commit suicide because while on suicide watch, one does not have clothes, bed sheets, or shoelaces. Inmates on suicide watch only have a smock and a hole in the ground for using the restroom.

Under the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s policy regarding inmates on suicide watch, prisoners on suicide watch are to be kept under “direct, continuous observation.”

Epstein was dead for hours before EMS responded because his body was stone cold, according to EMS. How did Epstein die if guards were watching him continuously? If they were watching him continuously and he did commit suicide, then one of those things isn’t true.

Epstein wouldn’t have been able to commit suicide if he truly was being watched continuously, which means foul play is likely involved…

Even if Epstein didn’t commit suicide (because let’s be honest, nobody believes Epstein actually committed suicide), if he was being watched continuously like he was supposed to be, according to the prison protocol, how did it takes hours for guards to realize he was dead?

Epstein was found in his cell at around 6:25 a.m on Saturday morning. According to the audio recording from EMS that was reporting back to the dispatch at 6:33 am, Epstein was stiff/cold, meaning he had been dead for a while.

Listen to audio after 2 min and 40 sec where dispatchers confirm that Epstein was stiff and cold.

Epstein was found cold and unresponsive by EMS and was not considered a patient even though EMS is heard saying “working cold”. Sources also tell us no apparent injuries were visible on Epstein’s body, making it unclear how his death has been deemed suicide already without an autopsy.

NBC News, Jeffrey Epstein is dead by apparent suicide in federal jail, Justice Department investigating, Tom Winter, Jonathan Dienst and Phil nbc news logoMcCausland, Aug. 10, 2019. Attorney General William Barr said he was "appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead" and that his death "raises serious questions that must be answered."

Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier and accused sex trafficker, died by apparent suicide Saturday morning while in federal custody, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Epstein, 66, was in his federal jail cell in downtown Manhattan but was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. He had apparently hanged himself, and was found unresponsive at around 6:30 a.m. ET.

william barr new oAttorney General William Barr, right, said he was "appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead" while in federal custody. He said he has consulted with the Department of Justice's inspector general, who is opening an investigation into the circumstances.

"Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered," Barr added.

Epstein's death comes a little over two weeks after he was found injured and in a fetal position in his cell at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He was semiconscious with marks on his neck at the time.

In July, two sources told NBC News that Epstein was on suicide watch. His death came the day after a trove of court documents was unsealed, providing new details about Epstein's alleged sex trafficking.

Epstein, who was being held on federal sex trafficking charges, was transported Saturday morning from the jail to a hospital in lower Manhattan. Upon arrival, he was in cardiac arrest, people familiar with the matter said.

The Department of Justice said Epstein was pronounced dead at the hospital. The FBI is investigating his death.

Miami Herald, Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein kills himself in N.Y. jail; U.S. inquiry launched, Julie K. Brown, Aug. 10, 2019. U.S. Attorney General William Barr has opened a federal investigation into the suicide of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found unresponsive Saturday morning in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, a federal prison where he had been housed awaiting trial.

Attorney General William Barr said ‘serious questions’ about the death of Jeffrey Epstein must be answered.

perversion of justice miami herald logoPalm Beach lawyer Jack Scarola, who represents several victims, said an investigation is called for into how Epstein was able to, once again, get authorities to look the other way. “It is inexplicable how such a high-profile person on suicide watch could commit suicide without help,’’ Scarola said.

“Epstein once again cheated his victims out of an opportunity for justice. While I’m sure none of them regret his death, all of them regret the information that died with him. The one expectation is that Epstein’s death not derail the investigation into others who participated in his criminal activities. There are named and unnamed co-conspirators who still need to be brought to justice,’’ Scarola said.

Attorney General Barr said he directed the FBI and inspector general to open separate probes into his death.

“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody. Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

His death came one day after the Miami Herald and other news organizations published a trove of documents describing in detail how he operated the equivalent of a sexual pyramid scheme, luring girls, most of them 14 to 16, to his Palm Beach home, then coercing them into sex.

The court papers provided damning evidence — in the form of sworn depositions, photographs, flight logs and witness statements — that Epstein and his alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, were operating an international sex-trafficking operation in which girls and young women were lured into trafficking with the empty promise that the couple would help them with their education or careers.

His death could short-circuit what would have been a spectacular trial that likely would have drawn in an array of prominent witnesses. Epstein had a constellation of important friends in business, political and society circles, including former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump.

However, with his death, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York will likely refocus their probe on Maxwell, Sarah Kellen Vickers, Adriana Ross and Lesley Groff — all of whom allegedly helped run Epstein’s operation in the mid- to late-2000s. Another woman, Nadia Marcinkova, who is now a commercial pilot, was accused of sexually abusing some of the underage girls.

New York Magazine, After Jeffrey Epstein’s Death, Everyone Is Turning to Conspiracy Theories, Matt Stieb, Aug. 10, 2019. Politicians, reporters, and pretty much everyone else on Twitter are responding to Epstein’s death, reaching for conspiracy and convincing — if unfounded — theories on how it might have happened.

 Papal Racism Warning

pope francis handwave washington postwashington post logoWashington Post, Warning against nationalism, Pope Francis says recent speeches echo ‘Hitler in 1934,’ Siobhán O'Grady, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.). As Italy’s populist government appeared to be on the verge of collapse, an Italian daily published an interview in which the pontiff called for a united Europe while describing nationalist rhetoric as “frightening thoughts.”

Pope Francis (shown above in a Washington Post photo) called for a united Europe in an interview published by Italian daily La Stampa on Friday, saying recent political rhetoric has echoed that of Nazi Germany.

“I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934,” he said. “ 'Us first. We … We … ’ These are frightening thoughts.”

It is not the first time the pontiff has made such remarks, but his comments published Friday came as Italy’s populist government appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the most powerful politician in Italy, called for parliament to be dissolved and asked President Sergio Mattarella to order snap elections that could make Italy’s government lean even further right.

U.S. Immigration Law

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘If you’re a good worker, papers don’t matter’: How a Trump construction crew has relied on immigrants without legal status, Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.). For nearly two decades, the Trump Organization has relied on a roving crew of Latin American employees to build fountains and waterfalls, sidewalks and rock walls at the company’s winery and its golf courses from New York to Florida.

ICE logoOther employees at Trump clubs were so impressed by the laborers — who did strenuous work with heavy stone — that they nicknamed them “Los Picapiedras,” Spanish for “the Flintstones.”

For years, their ranks have included workers who entered the United States illegally, according to two former members of the crew. Another employee, still with the company, said that remains true today.

washington post logoWashington Post, ICE raids target workers, but few firms are charged, Renae Merle, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.). As workplace raids multiply, Trump administration charges few companies. ICE has announced cases against five companies for immigration violations since 2017 Prosecuting corporations, as opposed to workers or managers, for immigration-related offenses has slowed under the Trump administration, records show.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They’re afraid’: Suburban voters in red states threaten GOP’s grip on power, Robert Costa, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.). In Atlanta’s northern suburbs, issues such as gun control and President Trump’s conduct are causing unrest among GOP voters.

The GOP lost its House majority in 2018 after it fared poorly with suburban voters, particularly women. Party leaders are increasingly alarmed that they have made little progress winning them back. Instead, Trump’s incessant feuds, his hard-line position on immigration — including federal raids that left children without their parents — and the stock market’s tumult amid his trade standoff with China threaten to further alienate suburban voters ahead of the 2020 campaign, even in states that have traditionally elected Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump says Democrats will call ‘anybody’ racist, JM Rieger, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Here’s a list of times he’s used that label, President Trump has called at least 22 things and people “racist” in the past two decades.

Civil Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. school that barred transgender student from boys’ restroom violated his rights, judge rules, Debbie Truong, Aug. 10, 2019 (print ed.). The case reached the Supreme Court, but the justices returned the case to a lower federal court after the Trump administration reversed Obama-era guidance that directed schools to allow students to use restrooms that aligned with their gender identity.

Syrian War

SouthFront, Syrian Army Advances In Northern Lattakia, Captures Two Key Hilltops, Staff report, Aug. 10, 2019. After more than 24 hours of syrian flag wavingheavy clashes with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other terrorist groups, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 4th Division captured two key hilltops in the northern Hama countryside.

According to pro-government sources, army units managed to secure the al-Zuiqat and 112 hills. Both hills overlook the town of Kabani, a stronghold of several terrorist groups. A source in the 4th Division told SouthFront that over 100 militants, mostly foreigners, were killed or injured during the clashes in northern Lattakia.

Debunked 'History' of U.S. Second Amenment

Consortium News, Opinion: More Second Amendment Madness, Robert Parry, Aug. 10, 2019 (republished from Jan. 14, 2013). Robert Parry, robert parry new hsfounder of Consortium News, exposed in this 2013 article the dangerous and false idea that the Constitution Framers wrote the 2nd Amendment so an armed population could fight the government the Framers had just created.

The Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created.

As a result of that historical lie, many right-wingers today appear to be heeding a call to arms by buying up assault weapons at a frenetic pace. A “Gun Appreciation Day” is scheduled for the Saturday before Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural, which coincidentally falls on Martin Luther King Day. Thousands of gun owners are expected to turn out waving flags and brandishing rifles.

General Benjamin Lincoln who led a force in 1787 to put down Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. (Painting by Charles Willson Peale)

The organizer of that effort, right-wing activist Larry Ward, wrote that “the Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people.”

In recent weeks, this bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano

Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

The suggestion is that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions in the face of the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and hundreds of other horrendous incidents of gun violence.

These “revolutionary” Americans have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.”

But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite. The Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed rebellions.

The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States as well as giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy (Article III, Section 3).

Second Amendment’s History

Marker at final battle of Shay’s Rebellion in South Egremont, Mass. (Wikipedia)

The historical context of the Second Amendment also belies today’s right-wing mythology. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the young nation was experiencing violent unrest, such as the Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. That armed uprising was testing the ability of the newly independent nation to establish order within the framework of a democratic Republic, a fairly untested idea at the time. European monarchies were predicting chaos and collapse for the United States.

Among the most concerned about that possibility was General George Washington, who had sacrificed greatly for the birth of the new nation. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 and their acceptance of American independence in 1783, Washington fretted over the inability of the states-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation, then governing the country, to deal with its economic and security challenges.

Washington grew disgusted with the Articles’ recognition of 13 “independent” and “sovereign” states and the correspondingly weak central government, called not even a government, but a “league of friendship.”

As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington had watched his soldiers suffer when various states reneged on their commitment to supply money and arms. After the war, Washington retired but stayed active in seeking reforms that would strengthen the central government’s ability to organize national commerce and to maintain order.

His fears deepened in 1786 when Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain, led an uprising of other veterans and farmers in western Massachusetts, taking up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.

Washington received reports on the crisis from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as his longtime logistical chief, Gen. Henry Knox, and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the British surrender at Yorktown as Washington’s second in command. They kept Washington apprised of the disorder, which he feared might encourage renewed interference in American affairs by the British or other European powers.

On Oct. 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information about the rebellion from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”

In another letter on Nov. 7, 1786, Washington questioned Gen. Lincoln about the unrest: “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Washington was especially concerned about the possibility of a hidden British hand.

Lincoln responded: “Many of them [the rebels] appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”

However, the U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation lacked the means to restore order. So wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Gen. Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington remained concerned the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.

“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington wrote to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws anarchy & confusion must prevail.”

Just weeks later, Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in and preside over the Constitutional Convention, which was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.

The Signing of the Constitution by Louis S. Glanzman, hanging in Independence Hall, Philadelphia

The key point of the Constitution was to create a peaceful means for the United States to implement policies favored by the people but within a structure of checks and balances to prevent radical changes deemed too disruptive to the established order. For instance, the two-year terms of the House of Representatives were meant to reflect the popular will but the six-year terms of the Senate were designed to temper the passions of the moment (and senators were initially chosen by state legislatures, not the people).

Within this framework of a democratic Republic where peaceful change was possible though intentionally gradual the Framers criminalized taking up arms against the government. But it was the Constitution’s drastic expansion of federal power that prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry who spearheaded the Anti-Federalist movement.

Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were. To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was a mix of concessions, some substantive and some rhetorical, to both individual citizens and the states.

The Second Amendment was primarily a right granted to the states. It read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Madison’s political maneuvering narrowly secured approval of the Constitution in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1791. [For more details on the Constitution, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Behind the Second Amendment

As the preface to the Second Amendment makes clear, the concern was about enabling states to organize militias that could maintain “security,” which fit with the Constitution’s goal of “domestic Tranquility” within the framework of a Republic.

This concept was amplified by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.

At the time, Madison was in the U.S. Congress and Washington was in the presidency with both supporting the new laws so the “original intent” of the Framers could not be easily misunderstood.

The right “to keep and bear arms” was always within the context of participating in militias or today the National Guard not as the right of individuals to possess devastating weapons that could be used to violently overthrow the U.S. government or to kill its officials. (The recognition of a collective rather than individual right was only reversed in 2008 when right-wing ideologues had gained control of the U.S. Supreme Court and then overturned longstanding legal precedents.)

Whiskey Point Marker – Monongahela, PA (Jon Dawson/Flickr)

But if there was any doubt about how the actual Framers saw the Second Amendment, it was answered in 1794 when President Washington led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels in Pennsylvania. The revolt soon collapsed; many leaders fled; and two participants were convicted of high treason and sentenced to hanging, though Washington later pardoned them.

Beyond this clear historical record that the Framers’ intent with the Second Amendment was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land and favored domestic tranquility to promote economic development and growth.

So, it would be counterintuitive as well as anti-historical to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people at least the white males to repulse uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts.

Fabricated History

However, the Right has invested heavily over the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

To build that narrative, a few incendiary quotes are cherry-picked, taken out of context or invented. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of such apocryphal references.]

This “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.

It should be noted, too, that Thomas Jefferson, one of the most radical-sounding (though hypocritical) leaders of the Revolutionary War, was not a Framer of the Constitution. In 1787, when the document was written, he was the U.S. representative in France.

There is also the obvious point that the Framers’ idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.

However, people like Andrew Napolitano on the Right as well as some dreamy revolutionaries on the Left still suggest that the Framers enacted the Second Amendment so the firepower of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government and kill its agents would be equal to whatever weapons the government possessed.

This crazy notion would be laughable if its consequences were not so horrible. The human price for this phony concept of “liberty” and this bogus history is the horrendous death toll that gun violence inflicts on American society, including the recent slaughter of those children in Newtown.

Yet, instead of recognizing the actual history and accepting that the Constitution was an attempt by the Framers to create a democratic process for peaceful change, today’s advocates of a violent revolution whether from the Right or the Left feed the paranoia and the ignorance of their followers.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He founded Consortium News in 1995, considered the first online, independent news site.

Aug. 9

Trump Intelligence Shake-up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump announces shake-up at top of U.S. intelligence, Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima, Aug. 9, 2019. President Trump said in a tweet Thursday that he will name Joseph Maguire, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as the acting director of national intelligence, following his aborted effort to install a political loyalist.

joseph maguire headshotMaguire, right, is a retired Navy admiral not steeped in the inner workings of the intelligence community, but his appointment was seen as steadying in the middle of a tumultuous shake-up in the top ranks of the country’s spy agencies.

As Trump announced ­Maguire’s appointment, he also said that Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national Donald Trumpintelligence, would resign and not serve in the acting role when director Daniel Coats also departs next week.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers had said they wanted Gordon, a career intelligence official, to fill in for Coats. But Trump was reluctant to keep someone with whom he had never formed a close bond. The president and his aides also regarded her as a career official and consequently suspicious, according to officials with knowledge of the president’s views.

A U.S. official said that Gordon was “heartbroken” and agonized over her decision to step down, but that she recognized she served at the president’s pleasure.

Trump had intended to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) as the director of national intelligence. But Ratcliffe’s potential nomination collapsed amid bipartisan criticism about his lack of national security expertise and allegations that he padded his résumé as a former federal prosecutor.

mark warner“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he is seemingly incapable of hearing facts that contradict his own views,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), right, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

“The mission of the intelligence community is to speak truth to power. Yet in pushing out two dedicated public servants in as many weeks, once again the President has shown that he has no problem prioritizing his political ego even if it comes at the expense of our national security,” Warner said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Did Dan Coats and Sue Gordon just pull a fast one on Donald Trump? Bill Palmer, Aug. 9, 2019. In the week since Donald Trump ousted his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, it’s been abundantly clear that he didn’t want Coats’ Deputy, Sue Gordon, to assume the role – even on an acting basis. But as the Senate Republicans torpedoed Trump’s attempted nomination of John Ratcliffe to the position, and then publicly told Trump that he was legally required to name Gordon the Acting DNI, Trump seemed to be changing his tune – until yesterday.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s when Donald Trump suddenly announced on Twitter that Sue Gordon was instead retiring, effective next week, and that he was naming retired Admiral Joseph Maguire as Acting DNI.

Multiple sources are now telling CNN that Dan Coats interrupted a meeting in order to urge Sue Gordon not to take the Acting DNI job, and that Gordon – who by all accounts is loyal to Coats – ended up honoring his wishes. But why would Coats do this?

Inside DC: Guns

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says McConnell Is ‘On Board’ With Background Checks for Guns, Eileen Sullivan, Aug. 9, 2019. “We need intelligent background checks,” President Trump said less than a week after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people mitch mcconnell2dead. He asserted that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, right, supported the idea. Both have resisted such legislation in the past.

The time is now for lawmakers to come together and pass new laws for “meaningful” background checks on gun purchasers, Mr. Trump said Friday as he left the White House for a political fund-raiser in Southampton, N.Y., followed by a vacation at his golf club in New Jersey.

Manson Family Murders Revisited

sharon tate charles manson photos Lily Laurent Flickr and california department corrections

Sharon Tate (left). Charles Manson (right). Photo credit: Lily Laurent / Flickr and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Wikimedia

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy Podcast, Everything You Know About Charles Manson Is Wrong! Jeff Schechtman, Aug. 9, 2019. Joan Didion famously said that the Sixties ended on August 9, 1969, with the murders of Sharon Tate and six others at the hands of the so-called Manson Family.

For 50 years, the official narrative has held that the murders were initiated by Manson to appear as if they were committed by the Black Panthers with the goal of starting a race war. That was prosecutor Vince Bugliosi’s theory of the case. Bugliosi argued at trial that Manson had gotten this idea of “Helter Skelter” from a Beatles song.

That has remained the conventional wisdom — until now. Since it was first published, Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter has never gone out of print. It now appears that this version of the story may be just as fanciful as Quentin Tarantino’s fictional version, in his new hit film tom oneill manson chaos coverOnce Upon A Time… in Hollywood.

In 1999, investigative journalist Tom O’Neill was commissioned to write a story for what was then Premiere magazine, marking the 30th anniversary of the Tate/LaBianca murders. Thus began for O’Neill a 20-year odyssey into the dark world of Charles Manson.

During his journey he has uncovered new revelations about the murders, about Manson, about a rogues’ gallery of cops, corrupt and violent prosecutors, drug dealers, celebrities, clandestine government drug researchers, secret agents, and a cover-up that points strongly to the FBI and the CIA.

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Jeff Schechtman talks with O’Neill about his investigation, as laid out in his new book CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties.

U.S. Foreign Policy

Politico, Fury grows over delayed probe of Trump aides' alleged political retaliation, Nahal Toosi, Aug. 9, 2019. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel said he was 'fed up with the State Department playing games with this investigation.' Democrats and many in the State Department are increasingly exasperated that they have yet to see the results of an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s political appointees mistreated career staffers.

eliot engel oThe delayed release of the State Department inspector general's findings has generated rising suspicion that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to derail the investigation, whose results could be damning to some of his top aides. Lawmakers initially expected the report “months ago,” according to Rep. Eliot Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Engel, right, said he was “fed up with the State Department playing games with this investigation.”

“We just keep hearing excuse after excuse for the delay, which only serves to shake confidence in the integrity of the IG’s investigation,” the New York Democrat added in a statement.

Aides to Pompeo did not offer comment on his role. The inspector general’s office, however, insisted that there is nothing unusual in the length of time it’s taken to release the findings. “There has been no delay, and we anticipate publishing the report this month,” said Sarah Breen, a spokeswoman for Inspector General Steve Linick. “We continue to act independently and objectively.”

According to Breen, Linick’s investigation dates to at least March 2018. A second piece of the investigation launched in July 2018. Lawmakers requested an initial probe of the alleged misconduct as early as January 2018.

Disaster Relief

ny times logoNew York Times, This High-Tech Solution to Disaster Response May Be Too Good to Be True, Sheri Fink, Aug. 9, 2019. Major cities are turning to a Silicon Valley start-up to help save lives in an emergency. But some fear its promise has been dangerously exaggerated.

The company called One Concern has all the characteristics of a buzzy and promising Silicon Valley start-up: young founders from Stanford, tens of millions of dollars in venture capital and a board with prominent names.

us dhs big eagle logo4Its particular niche is disaster response. And it markets a way to use artificial intelligence to address one of the most vexing issues facing emergency responders in disasters: figuring out where people need help in time to save them.

That promise to bring new smarts and resources to an anachronistic field has generated excitement. Arizona, Pennsylvania and the World Bank have entered into contracts with One Concern over the past year. New York City and San Jose, Calif., are in talks with the company. And a Japanese city recently became One Concern’s first overseas client.

But when T.J. McDonald, who works for Seattle’s office of emergency management, reviewed a simulated earthquake on the company’s damage prediction platform, he spotted problems. A popular big-box store was grayed out on the web-based map, meaning there was no analysis of the conditions there, and shoppers and workers who might be in danger would not receive immediate help if rescuers relied on One Concern’s results.

U.S. Justice Dept. Disputes

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI releases records of Justice Dept. official Bruce Ohr interviews about Russia probe, Devlin Barrett, Aug. 9, 2019. The memos describe conversations Ohr had with the FBI about the man behind the dossier of allegations against Trump in 2016.

Heavily redacted FBI memos released Thursday show that while the FBI formally cut ties with a former British intelligence officer who supplied some early information in the investigation of Russian election interference, agents quietly sought to reestablish contact as the case heated up.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedThe released documents are formal FBI interview memos of agents’ conversations with Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official who has drawn the ire of President Trump for his connections to Christopher Steele, left, a former British spy with an expertise in Russia who wrote a dossier of allegations against Trump in 2016. The general thrust of Steele’s allegations was that then-candidate Trump was secretly aligned with Russian officials and could be manipulated by them.

Ohr, a relatively obscure Justice Department employee for more than 20 years, became a focus of Republicans in Congress after they learned of his interactions with Steele, and the Washington, D.C.-based research firm that hired Steele, Fusion GPS.

Media / Politics / Mass Shootings

President Donald Trump officialWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Mass shootings -- a Trump TV production, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 9, 2019 (subscription required). The White House press pool was not granted access to two hospital trauma centers in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas that treated patients wounded in separate mass shootings in those cities.

Instead, the American public was force-fed official White House photographs and videos showing a smiling Trump and his wife with emergency room personnel. However, actual trauma center employees revealed that many of the workers photographed with Trump did not work at the trauma centers but showed up a few hours before Trump’s visit, along with White House advance team personnel.

Climate Change / Child-Bearing

HuffPost, 9 People On The Ethics Of Having Kids In An Era Of Climate Crisis, Laura Paddison, Aug. 8, 2019. Readers share heartbreaking and searingly honest stories about their decision whether or not to have children because of climate concerns. In an interview with British Vogue, published last week, Prince Harry suggested that he was thinking of having a maximum of two children

More On Epstein

Daily Beast, Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Names Powerful Men in Alleged Sex Ring, Kate Briquelet, Katie Baker, Justin Miller, Pilar Melendez, daily beast logoTracy Connor, Aug. 9, 2019. In newly unsealed documents, Virginia Giuffre claims that Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell trafficked her to politicians, princes, and a high-flying financier, among others.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University A young woman who says financier Jeffrey Epstein, right, and socialite Ghislaine Maxwell kept her as a sex slave also accused a host of high-powered men of being involved in Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring, according to court records unsealed Friday.

Virginia Giuffre, who says that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her to powerful people for erotic massages and sex, claimed in depositions in 2016 that Maxwell directed her to have sex with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Britain’s Prince Andrew (whom she has accused before), wealthy financier Glenn Dubin, former senator George Mitchell, now-deceased MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, and modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, as well as “another prince,” a "foreign president," a well-known prime minsiter" and the owner of a “large hotel chain” in France.

Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001None of the men named in the deposition have been charged with a crime or even sued in civil court in connection with the Epstein case. The deposition represents accuser Giuffre’s allegations, and the court documents unsealed on Friday did not contain any corroboration or further details, though many documents remain sealed.

Roberts, at center, claimed that Epstein farmed her out to other men, including Prince Andrew of the British royal family, left. The California native said the photo at left portrays her at center with Prince Andrew, also known as the Duke of York, on a trip to London when she was 17 in 2001. At right was Ghislaine Maxwell, the socialite daughter of the corrupt newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, who drowned in 1991 after toppling overboard from his yacht Lady Ghislaine. 

Brunel’s attorney Joe Titone declined to comment. Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace have previously and vehemently denied Giuffre’s allegations. “Glenn and Eva Dubin are outraged by the allegations in the unsealed court records, which are demonstrably false and defamatory. The Dubins have flight records and other evidence that definitively disprove that any such events occurred," a spokesperson for the Dubin family told The Daily Beast on Friday.

A spokesperson for former Gov. Bill Richardson, Madeleine Mahony, told The Daily Beast on Friday,“These allegations and inferences are completely false. Governor Richardson has never even been contacted by any party regarding this lawsuit. To be clear, in Governor Richardson’s limited interactions with Mr. Epstein, he never saw him in the presence of young or underage girls. Governor Richardson has never been to Mr. Epstein’s residence in the Virgin Islands. Governor Richardson has never met Ms. Giuffre."

Mitchell said in a statement to The Daily Beast: “The allegation contained in the released documents is false ... I have never met, spoken with or had any contact with Ms. Giuffre.”

He added: “In my contacts with Mr. Epstein I never observed or suspected any inappropriate conduct with underage girls. I only learned of his actions when they were reported in the media related to his prosecution in Florida. We have had no further contact.”

The revelation comes after a federal appeals court ordered the release of the sealed documents in a lawsuit that Giuffre filed against Maxwell, the British publishing heiress whom Giuffre says was Epstein’s madam. Maxwell has rejected allegations that she has acted as a procurer for Epstein and denied she facilitated Prince Andrew's acts of sexual abuse and was Epstein’s madam.

marie villafana linked in

As an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida, Marie Villafaña (shown above in a Linked In photo) was the lead federal prosecutor on the Jeffrey Epstein case 12 years ago

Miami Herald, Lead U.S. prosecutor in ’08 Epstein case — who sources say wanted to charge him — resigns, Julie K. Brown and Jay Weaver, Aug. 9, 2019 (print ed.). A. Marie Villafaña, the lead federal prosecutor who helped negotiate a controversial plea deal for accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, has submitted her resignation to the Justice Department, the Miami Herald has learned.

Her departure comes amid a federal probe into the role she and other federal prosecutors, including her former boss, Alexander Acosta, had in sidelining a 53-page indictment against the wealthy New York investor in favor of a state plea to minor prostitution charges in 2008.

Epstein, 66, right, was accused of molesting dozens of underage girls, most of them 14 to 16 years old, at his Palm Beach mansion more than a decade ago. He is now facing federal sex trafficking charges involving minors brought against him last month by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is examining whether Acosta, who resigned his cabinet post as secretary of labor last month — and other U.S. prosecutors involved in the 2007-2008 case — committed misconduct in negotiating the secret pact with Epstein. A federal judge in February ruled that the prior deal was illegally negotiated because Epstein and federal prosecutors concealed it from his victims in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

The Herald has learned that several people involved in the Epstein case have been questioned by the Justice Department in recent weeks as part of its ongoing OPR investigation.

Jonathan Biran, Villafaña’s lawyer, confirmed her resignation Thursday, noting that she has long planned to transition to a legal career in healthcare, and now plans to join the federal Department of Health and Human Services. In recent years, she has handled a number of healthcare fraud cases in South Florida.

Villafaña, 51, has worked in the Southern District of Florida, mostly based in West Palm Beach, for the past 18 years. She is the last member of the federal prosecution team that handled Epstein’s case in 2008 still employed by the Department of Justice. The other members of the team, including Acosta, left in the years after Epstein’s case was closed.

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump’s impeachment has arrived, Bill Palmer, Aug. 9, 2019. For the past several weeks, Palmer Report has been pointing out that Donald Trump’s impeachment was coming. The signs were in plain sight and were indisputable. We’ve also been pointing out that impeachment is not a magic wand, and that an impeachment inquiry was a complex process that would not cause Trump to simply fall through a trap door.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and confirmed in exact words what was already apparent: the committee’s earlier court filing regarding impeachment did in fact constitute the start of an official impeachment inquiry. In other words, Trump’s impeachment is already underway. But again, no magic wand. So what does it really mean?

U.S. House logoAs we’ve tried to make clear all along, formal televised impeachment hearings – which is what most people picture in their heads when they hear the word “impeachment” – can’t start until House Democrats have won at least most of their court battles over testimony and evidence. Institutions like Deutsche Bank will turn over Trump’s financial records, and people like Don McGahn will publicly testify against Trump, but only once they have the legal cover of the courts having ordered them to do so.

Social Media Standards

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube’s arbitrary standards: Stars keep making money even after breaking the rules, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, Aug. 9, 2019. Moderators describe a chaotic workplace where exceptions for lucrative influencers are the norm.

youtube logo CustomYouTube stars attract millions of eyeballs and generate billions of dollars in ad revenue for the media giant, which pledges to run its business without tolerating hateful and otherwise harmful videos.

But some of the workers hired to flag problematic content accuse YouTube of playing favorites, doling out more lenient punishments for top video creators whose work brings in the most money for the company. Eleven current and past moderators, who have worked on the front lines of content decisions, believe that popular creators often get special treatment in the form of looser interpretations of YouTube’s guidelines prohibiting demeaning speech, bullying and other forms of graphic content.

U.S. Hong Kong Role Exposed

Zero Hedge, US Calls China "Thuggish Regime" For Releasing Identity Of US Official Caught Meeting With HK Protesters, Tyler Durden, Aug. 8, 2019. The US State Department has released a statement in response to Chinese officials and state media accusing a US diplomatic official based in Hong Kong of interfering in Chinese affairs.

State media widely reported on a viral photo showing US foreign service agent Julie Eadeh -- identified as the political unit chief of the US Consulate General -- meeting with leading anti-Beijing activists at a Hong Kong hotel on Tuesday amid continuing unrest in the semi-autonomous city.

A State Department spokesperson on Thursday afternoon issued a statement calling China a "thuggish regime" for releasing details on the US diplomat stationed in Hong Kong.

"I don't think that leaking an American diplomat's private information, pictures, names of their children, I don't think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do," spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told a news briefing.

After a viral photo surfaced this week revealing continuing contact between well-known Hong Kong pro-independence protest leaders and a US diplomatic officer, China has summoned US consulate officials stationed in the city, Bloomberg reports.

Saudi Coalition Split In Yemen

Al Jazeera, Aden clashes continue, risk making Yemen war 'even more complex,' Staff and wires, Aug. 9, 2019. Five civilians among 20 people reported dead as fighting between separatists and government forces go on for third day. Fighting between Yemeni government forces and separatists in the southern port city of Aden has continued for a third consecutive day, with reports of at least 20 people killed.

The violence in the seat of Yemen's internationally-recognised government threatens to open a new front in the country's devastating war, exposing a rift in a Saudi-led military alliance that has been battling the Houthi rebel movement since 2015.

Aug. 8

UN Food Shortage Warning

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Change Threatens World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns, Christopher Flavelle, Aug. 8, 2019. The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

UN logoThe report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply. Already, more than 10 percent of the world’s population remains undernourished, and some authors of the report warned in interviews that food shortages could lead to an increase in cross-border migration.

A particular danger is that food crises could develop on several continents at once, said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the lead authors of the report. “The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” she said. “All of these things are happening at the same time.”

Trump / Mass Shootings

ny times logoNew York Times, On a Day Set Aside for Healing, Trump Stokes Divisions, Michael Crowley, Maggie Haberman, Mitch Smith and Michael D. Shear, Aug. 8, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s plans to visit Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso after two mass shootings went awry even before he departed Washington. The day devolved into an occasion for anger-fueled broadsides against Democrats and the news media. He was greeted by protests in both cities.

donald trump twitterOn Tuesday night, he tweeted that Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from El Paso, should “be quiet.” As he prepared to leave the White House on Wednesday morning, he went after former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who said in a speech that day that Mr. Trump had “fanned the flames of white supremacy.”

Both Mr. O’Rourke and Mr. Biden are running for president and have been particularly harsh in their criticism of Mr. Trump after the two shootings, and Mr. Trump rose to the bait.

washington post logoWashington Post, NRA warns Trump after he signals he is open to extensive background checks, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, Aug. 8, 2019 (print ed.). NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre spoke with Trump on Tuesday after the president expressed support for a background nra logo Customcheck bill and told him it would not be popular among Trump’s supporters, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal talks. LaPierre also argued against the bill’s merits, the officials said.

Advisers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would not bring any gun-control legislation to the floor without widespread Republican support.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings calls for end to ‘hateful rhetoric’ that inspires mass shooters, Jenna Portnoy​, Aug. 8, 2019 (print ed.). Speaking at a luncheon, the Maryland Democrat referred to tweets by President Trump disparaging his Baltimore congressional district.

elijah cummings head and shoulders oRep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) on Wednesday called for an end to “hateful rhetoric” that inspires mass shooters.

In his first major speech in the nearly two weeks since President Trump called his Baltimore district a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” Cummings did not directly address the comments but called for national  press club logodecency.

“Those at the highest levels of government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” he said at the National Press Club in Washington. “As a country we finally must say that enough is enough. That we are done with the hateful rhetoric. That we are done with the mass shootings. That we are done with the white supremacists, domestic terrorists who are terrorizing our country and fighting against everything America stands for.”

House Panel Seeks Data On Justice Kavanaugh

Palmer Report, Opinion & Analysis: House Judiciary Committee is finally closing in on Brett Kavanaugh, James Sullivan, Aug. 8, 2019. brett kavanaughSupreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, right – one of the least popular justices in recent history – is once again in the news, as the House Judiciary Committee is closing in on him.

Today, they requested the National Archives send all records from the five years he served as White House Counsel from 2001-2006 in the Bush Administration. Only a sliver of these were made available prior to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with thousands of pages being withheld by a privately hired Republican attorney. While House Republicans are calling harassment, the committee has two specific reasons to see the documents – one of which has nothing to do with Kavanaugh’s love of beer.

bill palmer report logo headerIn fact, the infamous televised hearing from last fall when he melted down before a national audience was likely not the first time Kavanaugh misled senators. He did something similar in 2006, before senators confirmed him to a federal appeals court.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Names Acting Spy Chief as No. 2 Intelligence Official Steps Down, Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 8, 2019. President Trump on Thursday abruptly decided to install Joseph Maguire, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as the acting director of national intelligence after Dan Coats steps down from the post next week.

Mr. Trump announced his decision to elevate Mr. Maguire, a retired vice admiral who once led the Navy’s Special Warfare Command, on Twitter shortly after confirming that Sue Gordon, the nation’s No. 2 intelligence official — who by law had been in line to temporarily take over as director — would instead depart with Mr. Coats on Aug. 15.

Ms. Gordon, who served more than 30 years in intelligence posts at the C.I.A. and other agencies, informed Mr. Trump of her decision to retire in a letter on Thursday after it became clear that he would not permit her to rise to the position of acting director. Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, portrayed the ousters as a “devastating loss” that threatened the intelligence community’s ability to provide independent analysis and judgment to policymakers.

U.S. Political Hatreds

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Was Trump’s El Paso Visit a Turning Point? Richard Parker (author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America”), Aug. 8, 2019. A day of racist comments left him looking small and isolated, while the city united against him.

If consoling the nation in a time of desperate need is a vital and yet simple task of the American presidency, Donald J. Trump failed miserably this week.

From his flight on Wednesday to Dayton, Ohio, to this sprawling high-desert city on the Mexican border, the 45th occupant of the White House not only littered his consolation tour with petty insults — but just to rub salt in the wound, doses of renewed racism. Yet most striking was how alone and outnumbered the president was: rejected, ostracized and told to go home.

The people who streamed the scene of the terrorist attack here — brown, black, white and every hue in between — defiantly defended the nation’s diversity. With no public appearances, the president seemed to shrink, ever more alone as he clung to his white nationalist politics and governance. But he and his supporters were grossly outnumbered. For perhaps the first time in his angry, racist and cruel presidency, the tables were turned in smoldering, righteous popular anger — and he was on the receiving end.

You have to give this to Mr. Trump: He never backs off. He doubles down like a wild gambler in a casino, raising the stakes one more time demanding just a few more chips from the house. Leaving the White House on Wednesday morning, he said, “I think my rhetoric brings people together,” adding he was “concerned about the rise of any group of hate. I don’t like it, whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy.” Leaving Dayton, Mr. Trump insulted the mayor and a senator from the safety of Air Force One and, of course, Twitter.

Trump even jabbed a racist poke at El Paso, ridiculing the former Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke’s Spanish first name, though he is of Anglo descent.

While it was bad manners for a nation in mourning, it was more than that: It was a fresh dose of racism.

In an era in which minorities are becoming majorities, as in Texas, and intermarrying with Anglos, who is Mr. Trump to judge people’s race and ethnicity based on their names? My last name is Anglo, but I am the son of a Mexican immigrant.

At the makeshift memorial to the 22 killed for the hue of their skin while shopping at a Walmart on a Saturday, I spoke with a young soldier from the 1st Armored Division at nearby Fort Bliss. Big and burly in his camouflage uniform, Pvt. First Class Richard Riley, 20, stood with arms crossed, staring silently at the piles of flowers, plastic hearts and white crosses, one for every victim.

But behind his dark glasses, his eyes welled up. “I just can’t believe it,” he said. “I’m Hispanic, too. And I can’t believe that these people were killed because they were.”

Twitter Reprisal

twitter bird CustomRoll Call, Locking out ‘Team Mitch’ could cost Twitter, Niels Lesniewski, Aug. 8, 2019. Decision by Republican campaign committees to withhold ad dollars from Twitter could have a tangible effect.

The Republican National Committee, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign as well as the House and Senate GOP campaign committees took that step in response to the social media platform’s temporary lockout of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account.

mitch mcconnell2“Twitter has a clear bias against conservatives and Republicans. The hashtag associated the disgusting threats against Mitch McConnell was allowed to trend for an entire day. But McConnell’s posting of video of the threats themselves got his own account suspended. It is ludicrous bias in the extreme,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

The Trump campaign was planning to spend as much as $500,000 on Twitter in August, dependent on performance, according to a campaign source.

“Twitter’s hostile actions toward Leader McConnell’s campaign are outrageous, and we will not tolerate it. The NRSC will suspend all spending with Twitter until further notice,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We will not spend our resources on a platform that silences conservatives.”

According to a tweet from RNC Chief of Staff Richard Walters, both the committee and the Trump campaign dollars may not be coming back simply with the restoration of access to McConnell’s “Team Mitch” account.

“Any future ad $ either organization was planning to spend with @Twitter has been halted until they address this disgusting bias,” Walters tweeted.

The NRSC and the National Republican Congressional Committee also announced a temporary stop to Twitter advertising in response to Wednesday’s suspension of access to the McConnell account. The NRCC declined a request for details of Twitter spending, and the NRSC did not immediately respond.

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Analysis: House Democrats just ran a Deutsche Bank end-around in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, Aug. 8, 2019. deutsche bank logoHouse Democrats have been trying to get their hands on Donald Trump’s financial records from Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions, so they can fully expose Trump’s financial crimes and foreign entanglements. It’ll happen eventually, but Trump has been fighting in court to try to drag out the process as long as possible. Now it turns out House Democrats just did an end-around to get at least some of what they wanted.

bill palmer report logo headerIf the House Democrats can’t get Donald Trump’s banking records so they can spot the financial connections to Russia, why not simply get the Russians’ banking records so they can spot the connections to Trump? It turns out that’s precisely what’s been going on behind the scenes.

Five different major banks, including Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, have coughed up the financial records of various Russian figures who are suspected of having financial ties to Donald Trump, according to MarketWatch.

U.S. Raids Against Migrants

Common Dreams via Buzzflash, "Don't Look Away": Videos and Images of Weeping Children Spread as ICE Arrests 680 Migrant Workers in Mississippi on Day Trump Cynically Visits Victims of His War on "Invaders" in El Paso, Jake Johnson, Aug. 8, 2019. Heartbreaking images and videos of weeping children and loved ones spread rapidly on social media Wednesday night after Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested nearly 700 workers at several Mississippi food processing plants in a series of coordinated raids that were described as "the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in U.S. history."

ICE logoMississippi's local WJTV reported following the ICE raids that "many children of those arrested across the state are now left homeless with nowhere to go."

"These children," WJTV reported, "were relying on neighbors and even strangers to pick them up outside their homes after school and drive them to a community fitness center where people tried to keep them calm. But many kids could not stop crying for mom and dad."

As ProPublica reporter Dara Lind pointed out on Twitter, young children of immigrants have lived in constant fear of their parents being swept up at any moment by President Donald Trump's deportation force.

"I've spoken to school employees in cities where there were no raids," noted Lind, "saying that sometimes kids came in midday asking to call and see if parents were still home."

In total, ICE agents carried out raids in six Mississippi cities, leaving outrage and despair in their wake. According to local news reports, workers suspected of being undocumented were rounded up, placed on buses, and sent to an ICE facility in Louisiana.

"Children finished their first day of school with no parents to go home to tonight," reported the Jackson Free Press. "Babies and toddlers remained at daycare with no guardian to pick them up. A child vainly searched a workplace parking lot for missing parents."

Buzzfeed reported the story of a woman named Dianne, whose fiancé was arrested in one of the raids on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Dianne received an alarming call. It was her fiancé, dialing her from the chicken processing plant in a nearby central Mississippi town where he worked long shifts deboning meat.

"ICE is here!" he yelled. In the background, Dianne could hear other laborers terrified. The panic was palpable. One worker called out in Spanish, "Ayúdame! [Help me!]"

Dianne's fiancé, who came to the country more than two decades ago from Mexico without authorization, told her he had no way out and would not be able to escape immigration enforcement agents. His voice trembling, he told Dianne that she needed to make a promise before he got off the line: "Take care of my kids."

In a statement Wednesday, Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Lumumba condemned the raids as "dehumanizing."

"I'm calling upon faith institutions in our community to become sanctuaries for our immigrant neighbors and protect them from potential harm," Lumumba said. "The City of Jackson strongly objects to the Trump administration's ICE raids."

Greisa Martínez Rosas, deputy executive director of rights group United We Dream, called the massive raids "an act of terrorism" against immigrant communities and said the "effect of ripping children from their parents at the border or stealing parents away from their children in Mississippi is the same."

"Just days after the El Paso massacre where a gun wielding maniac parroted Trump's anti-immigrant hate, a battalion of ICE agents abducted 680 Latinx and immigrant men and women on Trump's orders," tweeted Rosas. "For anyone who tries to desensitize the situation or blur the connections between the acts of terror this week I call bullshit. Latinx and immigrant kids and families have been terrorized this week."

"It is time for both parties in Congress to stop giving ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] billions of dollars and to hold them accountable," Rosas said. "ICE and CBP are the armed, taxpayer funded extension of Trump's anti-immigrant hate and must be stopped."

U.S. Pro-War Media Advocates

Consortium News, Opinion: For Cliff May, War Pays, Daniel McAdams (Executive Director, Ron Paul Institute), Aug. 8, 2019. About the only thing the Defense of Democracies’ founder does not love about war is fighting it himself, writes Daniel McAdams.

cliff mayTo say that Clifford May, founder of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, loves war would be an understatement. He loves almost everything about war and he thinks the U.S. should be in a lot more of them. He thinks that the U.S. should never go home, should never withdraw troops, should forever be searching for “bad guys” to fight, lest they come find us and fight us here. Because the rest of the world is exclusively focused on how to invade and destroy the United States.

He likes to invoke Sun Tzu and Clausewitz and Plato to make his case for endless wars. Neocons love to do that because it makes them sound erudite and grounded in history — when in fact they are neither. About the only thing Clifford May does not love about war is fighting it himself.

While others of May’s generation were being blown to bits in that lost cause called “Vietnam,” May was drinking brewskis at Sarah Lawrence College and then Columbia University. His experience of war consists of covering it as a pampered correspondent of the shining lights of the mainstream U.S. media like Newsweek and The New York Times.

In a recent Washington Times editorial, tellingly titled, “Why endless wars can’t be ended,” May argues that members of the U.S. military should be constantly in battle. Not a moment’s rest from the killing and being killed. After all "the men and women volunteering to serve in America’s armed forces are not doing so in order to hang around the house drinking brewskies.”

May’s is a rare look into the utter contempt the neoconservatives feel for members of the United States military. Veteran suicides are an epidemic in the United States and are in fact the second leading cause of death in the U.S. military. Veterans make up 18 percent of all U.S. suicides while representing only 8.5 percent of the population.

In The Washington Times piece, May argues passionately against President Donald Trump’s stated goal of removing U.S. troops from their positions occupying parts of Syria. U.S. troops in Syria are, in his telling, “both preventing a revival of the Islamic State, and helping contain the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

This above sentence is key to understanding May’s constant push for more U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Hint: It’s not really about America.

May’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is lavishly funded by single-issue billionaires who believe they are helping Israel by sending U.S. troops to the Middle East to constantly provoke and kill those they believe are Israel’s enemies. Thus far it has not brought peace any closer to either Israel or its rivals in the region. In fact, the opposite. But the money keeps flowing so May keeps blowing. And American troops (along with millions of innocents in the target countries) keep on dying.

$5b Uber Losses Reported

ny times logoNew York Times, Uber Posts $5.2 Billion Loss, Its Largest Ever, as Growth Slows, Kate Conger, Aug. 8, 2019. Uber reported its largest-ever loss and its slowest-ever revenue growth, renewing questions about the company’s prospects. Most of the losses stemmed from stock-based compensation after its I.P.O., while revenue was up 14 percent from a year ago, the slowest quarterly growth rate yet.

Aug. 7

  william barr smile fox screengrab Small

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, a longtime Deep State cover-up artist who began his career as a CIA analyst.

MintPress News, Opinion & Analysis: Did Bill Barr Call His Shot? Unanswered Questions about FBI’s Foreknowledge of the El Paso Shooting, whitney webb twitterWhitney Webb, right, Aug. 7, 2019. As a series of recent mass shootings have brought renewed demands for the U.S. government to do something to address the spike in “lone wolf” violence, the Trump administration’s decision to blame internet privacy, controversial websites like 8chan, and social media for the shootings has raised eyebrows from across the political spectrum, particularly in light of claims that Trump’s recent rhetoric about immigrants may have incited some of the shooters.

As a series of recent mass shootings have brought renewed demands for the U.S. government to do something to address the spike in “lone wolf” violence, the Trump administration’s decision to blame internet privacy, controversial websites like 8chan, and social media for the shootings has raised eyebrows from across the political spectrum, particularly in light of claims that Trump’s recent rhetoric about immigrants may have incited some of the shooters.

Yet, not long before the recent spate of mass shootings began, U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave a speech on July 23 in which he spoke of the need for all consumer electronic devices and encrypted software to have a backdoor for the government to bypass encryption, essentially calling for many of the same measures that Trump has proposed following the recent shootings.

FBI logoFurthermore, the FBI, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and reports directly to William Barr, has now stated that it was aware of the El Paso shooter’s plan to murder civilians via a post made on 8chan at least two hours before the shooting took place.

8chan — a controversial website that the FBI is known to have used to incite violence as part of its controversial terrorist entrapment strategy — has since been banned in the shooting’s aftermath. In addition, less than two months ago, the FBI obtained a warrant for 8chan’s host — — in which the Bureau demanded access to the entire contents of the accounts that were of interest in that specific investigation, suggesting that the FBI had increased access to information of hundreds of 8chan accounts in the lead-up to the recent shootings.

 Puerto Rican Leadership

washington post logowanda vázquez garced twitterWashington Post, Puerto Rico has a new governor, its third in less than a week, after court ruling forced Rosselló’s successor to resign, Samantha Schmidt​, Aug. 7, 2019. Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced, shown in her Twitter photo, was sworn in as the new governor after a court ruled that Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in unconstitutionally.

Trump Family

Trump siblings, from left: Robert Trump, Elizabeth Trump Grau, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry (Trump Campaign Photo)

Trump siblings, from left: Robert Trump, Elizabeth Trump Grau, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry (Trump Campaign Photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pressured his alcoholic brother about his career. Now he has regrets, Michael Kranish​, Aug. 8, 2019. In an interview about Fred Trump Jr.’s death from alcoholism, the president admitted mistakes and said he is applying lessons to the nation’s fight against opioids.

It is rare for Trump to express regret or admit mistakes. But he said his brother’s short, tragic life scarred him like no other event, and he said he remains haunted by watching Fred Jr.’s handsome features fade.

A number of Fred Jr.’s friends, who provided The Post with many new details about his life, said the president has too often told the story in a way that put Fred Jr. in the harshest light while painting himself as the virtuous brother who avoided alcohol. The president was asked to respond to their comments and recently did so.

Jack O’Donnell, a former Trump casino executive who later ran an Arizona addiction treatment center, said the president still has not come to terms with his brother’s life and death.

“It always felt like it was a dark family secret, and a subject [about] which he did not want to talk,” O’Donnell said. “There is generally a lot of shame around addiction, which is sad. I think the entire Trump family suffers a great deal of shame and unresolved trauma over Fred’s Jr. death.”

More On Epstein

MintPress News, Investigation: Mega Group, Maxwells, and Mossad: The Spy Story at the Heart of the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal (Part III), Whitney Webb, right, whitney webb twitterAug. 7, 2019. The picture painted by the evidence is not a direct Epstein tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.

As billionaire pedophile and alleged sex-trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein sits in prison, reports have continued to surface about his reported links to intelligence, his financial ties to several companies and “charitable” foundations, and his friendships with the rich and powerful as well as top politicians.

While Part I and Part II of this series, “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” have focused on the widespread nature of sexual blackmail operations in recent American history and their ties to the heights of American political power and the U.S. intelligence community, one key aspect of Epstein’s own sex-trafficking and blackmail operation that warrants examination is Epstein’s ties to Israeli intelligence and his ties to the “informal” pro-Israel philanthropist faction known as “the Mega Group.”

The Mega Group’s role in the Epstein case has garnered some attention, as Epstein’s main financial patron for decades, billionaire Leslie Wexner, was a co-founder of the group that unites several well-known businessmen with a penchant for pro-Israel and ethno-philanthropy (i.e., philanthropy benefiting a single ethnic or ethno-religious group).

However, as this report will show, another uniting factor among Mega Group members is deep ties to organized crime, specifically the organized crime network discussed in Part I of this series, which was largely led by notorious American mobster Meyer Lansky.

whitney webb twitterWhitney Webb, right, is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets, including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.


Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of AchievementJeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of Achievement

ny times logoNew York Times, Billionaire Accuses Epstein of Misappropriating ‘Vast Sums of Money,’ Steve Eder and Emily Steel, Aug. 7, 2019. Leslie Wexner, the mogul behind Victoria’s Secret, detailed in a letter how his life became intertwined with Jeffrey Epstein, who faces sex-trafficking charges. Mr. Wexner used the letter to cast himself as an unwitting victim of his former adviser’s financial impropriety.

jeffrey epstein hands handsFor over 15 years, Jeffrey Epstein, right, served as a close personal adviser to Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire mogul behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. Now, Mr. Wexner says Mr. Epstein “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him and his family.

Mr. Wexner, the chief executive of the retail giant L Brands, included the accusation in a 564-word letter he sent Wednesday to the Wexner Foundation, giving his most detailed account yet of how his life and affairs became intertwined with Mr. Epstein, who was arrested last month and charged with sex trafficking involving girls as young as 14.

In the letter, Mr. Wexner said the misappropriation was first discovered in 2007 as he separated from Mr. Epstein. In early 2006, Florida authorities charged Mr. Epstein with multiple counts of molestation and unlawful sexual activity with a minor. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor and was required to register as a sex offender.

“It was agreed that he should step back from the management of our personal finances,” Mr. Wexner said in the letter. “In that process, we discovered that he had misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family. This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now.”

Mr. Epstein, 66, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he and his employees paid dozens of underage girls to engage in sex acts. A lawyer for Mr. Epstein did not respond to Mr. Wexner’s new accusations. In a letter to L Brands employees last month, Mr. Wexner, 81, said he was “NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment.”

Mr. Wexner used his letter on Wednesday, addressed to the “Wexner Foundation Community” and distributed to the press, to cast himself as an unwitting victim of his former adviser’s financial impropriety, after weeks of questions about his deep ties to Mr. Epstein.

In the same article, The Times reported that Mr. Wexner had given Mr. Epstein wide powers over his finances, philanthropy and private life.

leslie wexner black and white headshot“I first met Mr. Epstein in the mid-1980s, through friends who vouched for and recommended him as a knowledgeable financial professional,” Mr. Wexner, left, wrote in the letter to the foundation. “Mr. Epstein represented that he had various well-known and respected individuals both as his financial clients and in his inner circle. Based on positive reports from several friends, and on my initial dealings with him, I believed I could trust him.”

Before the separation, Wexner-backed entities financed a charity called C.O.U.Q., which Mr. Epstein controlled. That foundation accepted an $11.2 million donation from the Wexner Children’s Trust in 2002 and $10 million from the Leslie H. Wexner Charitable Fund in 2004.

In the letter sent Wednesday, Mr. Wexner said he had been “able to recover some of the funds” that he said were misappropriated by Mr. Epstein. That included a transfer of about $46 million worth of securities from C.O.U.Q. and a Virgin Island business controlled by Mr. Epstein to a foundation run by Mr. Wexner’s wife, Abigail Wexner, according to tax documents.

Case Against Trump

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion & Analysis, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists rife throughout Trump administration, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 8, 2019. Donald Trump is fond of pejoratively calling immigrants to the United States as “infestations,” echoing the same verbiage as used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

There is actually an infestation occurring within the Trump administration.

FBI, U.S. Courts

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, Andrew McCabe sues FBI over firing, alleges plot by Trump to oust those he finds disloyal, Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 8, 2019. Andrew McCabe, shown in a file photo above, the acting FBI director who authorized an investigation into President Trump for ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice, filed a lawsuit against the bureau and the Justice Department on Wednesday, alleging he was illegally demoted and fired as part of a plot by Trump to remove those who were not politically loyal to him.

McCabe asked that a federal judge declare his termination a “legal nullity” and essentially allow him to retire from the FBI as planned, with all the benefits that would have afforded him. He was fired from the bureau in March 2018, a little more than 24 hours before FBI logoMcCabe was set to retire, costing him significant retirement benefits. The termination came after the Justice Department inspector general found that McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the media, then lied to investigators about it.

“It was Trump’s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him,” the lawsuit alleges, adding that McCabe’s firing “was a critical element of Trump’s plan and scheme.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Peter Strzok’s case against Donald Trump just took a surreal turn, Bill Palmer, Aug. 8, 2019. Earlier this week, former peter strzok croppedFBI agent Peter Strzok, right, initiated legal action to try to force the federal government to give him his old job back. His case seems solid, considering he was only fired because Donald Trump abused his position as President of the United States to pressure the FBI into firing him. Now the case has already taken a surreal turn.

bill palmer report logo headerPeter Strzok’s case has already been assigned to a federal judge, and according to Politico, that judge is Amy Berman Jackson. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because she was also the judge in one of the Paul Manafort trials, and because she’s currently the judge in the Roger Stone trial. This speaks to the fairly small number of federal judges in each circuit. It also points to trouble for Trump.

How can we put this diplomatically? There are federal judges who try their best to apply the law fairly, and then there are federal judges who don’t. We saw this when T.S. Ellis, the judge in the other Paul Manafort trial, made a point of giving amy berman jacksonManafort an absurdly lenient sentence – while claiming that career criminal Manafort had led an “otherwise blameless life.”

In contrast, Amy Berman Jackson has shown herself to be fair and impartial. She gave Paul Manafort a proper prison sentence. She’s been handling the controversial Roger Stone trial in a professional manner. Now that she’s been assigned the Peter Strzok case, she’s very likely to handle it correctly as well.

U.S. Voter Suppression: Data

NYU Brennan Center for Justice, How Big a Problem Is Voter Suppression? Voter Purge Rates Remain High, Analysis Finds, Kevin Morris, Aug. 1, 2019. A new Brennan Center analysis finds that at least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018. The data also reveals that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination purged voters at a median rate that was 40 percent higher than others.

Before the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, these jurisdictions would have had to submit proposed changes to the Justice Department or a federal court to ensure they did not discriminate against protected minority groups.

Anti-Immigrant U.S. Groups

washington post logoWashington Post, After El Paso suspect echoed their views, anti-immigration groups seek distance, David Nakamura​, Aug. 8, 2019. Hours after the mass shooting in El Paso last weekend, Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, issued a tweet in the organization’s name denouncing the “tragic” carnage and urging Americans to “stand together against senseless rage and destructive impulses.”

FAIR, a leading proponent of restricting immigration, typically provides its 300,000 followers on Twitter and 2.1 million on Facebook with links to studies, news stories and podcasts warning of the economic, public safety and environmental costs of high immigration levels.

But Stein made no mention in his tweet of the online document that police think was written by the alleged killer, Patrick Wood Crusius, in which he cited many of the same arguments against immigration as a rationale and motivation for his attack that killed 22 people in a predominantly Hispanic city near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Stein’s decision to rapidly issue a statement condemning the El Paso massacre — the group did not comment on the weekend’s other mass shooting, in Dayton, Ohio — reflects a sense of alarm among FAIR and the small cohort of other restrictionist groups about potential political fallout from the massacres.

FAIR, along with two other Washington-based restrictionist groups, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Numbers USA, have avoided linking their positions to race or ethnicity, but they have pushed similar arguments about the burden that immigrants place on the native-born, and the purported difficulties they pose to assimilation in American culture and society.

Aug. 7

U.S. Mass Shootings

washington post logoWashington Post, On visits to grieving cities, Trump avoids the public eye, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Arelis R. Hernández​, Aug. 7, 2019. President Trump told reporters he "would like to stay out of the political fray" during his trip to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso. But within hours, he was sniping at Democrats on Twitter, including Dayton's mayor and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who joined him on a visit to a hospital where shooting victims were treated.

• Analysis: Trump seeks credit for Ohio hospital visit
• Biden, in blistering speech, says Trump has ‘fanned the flames of white supremacy’

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Have we arrived at an inflection point in the gun debate? Amber Phillips, Aug. 7, 2019. Congress hasn’t passed any major gun-control legislation into law in more than two decades. That might not change because of what happened in El Paso and Dayton. But there are some unusual factors in play.

• A notable number of Republicans say they are now open to gun-control legislation that they’ve long opposed.
• The National Rifle Association is weakened.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Visits Dayton, Protesters Gather, Michael D. Shear, Aug. 7, 2019. The president is visiting two cities in mourning after horrific mass shootings in Ohio and Texas. President Trump on Wednesday visited the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, where White House officials said he planned to thank emergency and hospital workers and visit with families and victims of the city’s tragic shooting.

The president was greeted at the airport by the city’s mayor and other officials. His motorcade passed two recreational vehicles adorned with pro-Trump signs and flags as well as one man standing outside of a store advertising survival supplies with a sign that appeared to object to so-called red-flag laws that prevent people with mental illness from getting guns: “Red Flag is Dystopic Future.”

Protesters gathered in Dayton to greet Mr. Trump, waving signs that said “Dump Trump” and “Do Something!” The protesters were met by demonstrators who waved competing signs supportive of Mr. Trump.

washington post logodjt pepe twitter imageWashington Post, Trump to face skepticism, protests in El Paso, Dayton, Toluse Olorunnipa, Arelis R. Hernández, John Wagner and Tim Craig​, Aug. 7, 2019. The open repudiation of a visiting president in the aftermath of a mass tragedy was striking as a growing chorus of critics made clear that President Trump [shown in a Pepe the Frog Twitter image) would not be universally welcome.

• Looser gun laws are about to go into effect in Texas, weeks after El Paso
• House Democrats tell McConnell: Pass stricter gun laws now

washington post logoWashington Post, Rise of far-right violence spurs calls to revise post-9/11 security priorities, Greg Miller, Aug. 7, 2019 (print ed.). Shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, prompted a roster of former U.S. counterterrorism officials to say some of the vast resources allocated to fight international Islamist groups should go to domestic terrorism.

U.S.-China Trade War

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump is increasingly relying on himself — not his aides — in trade war with China, Damian Paletta, Aug. 7, 2019 (print ed.). The Treasury Department’s formal announcement that it had labeled China a “currency manipulator” came six hours after President Trump did it himself, on social media.

U.S. Embargo On Venezuela

wsj logovenezuela flag waving customWall Street Journal, U.S. Expands Sanctions Against Venezuela Into an Embargo, Vivian Salama, Aug. 7, 2019. New measures mark a significant escalation of pressure against the regime of President Nicolás Maduro and countries including Russia and China that continue to support him.

U.S. Crackdown on Migrants

Associated Press via Magnolia Live, U.S. immigration raid nets 680 arrests at seven Mississippi food processing plants, Staff report, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 mostly Latino workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at least a decade.

The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit El Paso, Texas, the majority-Latino city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead in the border city.

ICE logoWorkers filled three buses — two for men and one for women — at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in tiny Morton, 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Jackson. They were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations. About 70 family, friends and residents waved goodbye and shouted, “Let them go! Let them go!” Later, two more buses arrived.

A tearful 13-year-old boy whose parents are from Guatemala waved goodbye to his mother, a Koch worker, as he stood beside his father. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot.

About 600 agents fanned out across the plants involving several companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing. They occurred in small towns near Jackson with a workforce made up largely of Latino immigrants, including Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie and Sebastapol.

Such large shows of force were common under President George W. Bush, most notably at a kosher meatpacking plant in tiny Postville, Iowa, in 2008. President Barack Obama avoided them, limiting his workplace immigration efforts to low-profile audits that were done outside of public view.

Koch Foods, based in Park Ridge, Illinois, is one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S. and employs about 13,000 people, with operations in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee. Forbes ranks it as the 135th largest privately held company in the U.S., with an estimated $3.2 billion in annual revenue. The Morton plant produces more than 700,000 tons of poultry feed a year, company officials said in February. The company has no relation to prominent conservative political donors and activists Charles and David Koch.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats ask federal judge to force testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, don mcgahn cato screengrabEllen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjia, Aug. 7, 2019. McGahn, right, figured prominently in Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether President Trump obstructed justice.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Billionaire owner of SoulCycle, Miami Dolphins endures backlash over Trump fundraiser, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Aug. 7, 2019. News of an upcoming fundraiser for President Trump at the swanky Hamptons home of billionaire Stephen Ross drew swift backlash Wednesday from prominent customers of Ross’s luxury fitness brands and a player on the Miami Dolphins, the National Football League franchise Ross owns.

Some high-profile LGBTQ activists and celebrities took to social media to call for a boycott of Equinox fitness clubs and SoulCycle over the fundraiser, which was organized to support Trump’s reelection and comes with a price tag as high as $250,000 for an audience with the president.

“Hey @Equinox - what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?” comedian Billy Eichner tweeted Wednesday afternoon. He followed up later with a tweet saying he had indeed canceled his membership.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, NRA chief sought purchase of mansion in wake of Parkland shooting, Carol D. Leonnig and Beth Reinhard, Aug. 7, 2019. Wayne LaPierre said he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

The chief executive of the National Rifle Association sought to have the nonprofit buy him a luxury mansion last year after a mass shooting at a Florida high school, selecting a French country-style estate in a gated Dallas-area golf club, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

nra logo CustomWayne LaPierre, the longtime head of the NRA, told associates he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live after 17 people were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the people said.

LaPierre and his wife, Susan, were intensely involved in the selection of the property, rejecting an upscale high rise in Dallas with numerous security features in favor of a 10,000-square-foot estate with lakefront and golf course views in Westlake, Tex., on the market for about $6 million, according to emails and text messages described to The Washington Post.

National Press Club, Cummings wants Congress back early to address gun violence, Michelle Amber, Aug. 7, 2019. Rep. Elijah Cummings, national  press club logoD-Md, called on Congress to return early from its August recess and convene a session on gun violence in response to the latest mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Speaking at a National Press Club Headliners luncheon Wednesday, Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said, “Gun violence seems to know no bounds.” He added, “The American people are begging us for more than thoughts and prayers. They want action.”

People are dying, he said, adding that they are afraid to go shopping or even go to the movies. People want to live in a country where their kids are safe going to the mall, to Walmart, and to school. He added that Congress has the responsibility to do whatever is necessary to save lives.

Cummings called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, to bring legislation passed by the House to the Senate floor for a vote and on to President Donald Trump for his signature. The legislation includes expansion of background checks for gun buyers.

The representative said he is not persuaded by talk in recent days by Republicans about new gun safety bills. “You have a lot of talk. But in the end, nothing happens. They will make these glorious statements,” he added. “But they know there will be no repercussions because the President has their back” and McConnell has Trump’s back, he said.

While not addressing Trump by name, Cummings called for “those in the highest levels of the government” to “stop invoking fear, using racist language, and encouraging reprehensible behavior. It only creates more division amongst us,” he said. He added that rarely a week goes by without him receiving a death threat for just doing his job.

Cummings dismissed as"distractions" numerous tweets and comments critical of him, his Baltimore home town and his district, which the president called “rat and rodent infected.”

“I want President Trump to come to my district,” he said, adding he has not been able to reach the president to invite him. “I want him to come and look at my entire city. I’ll ride with him for hours if he asked to,” adding, “I want him to see all the wonderful things that are happening.” He said that his district is diverse and includes “the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.”

In defending his constituents, Cummings said there are thousands of people who are working hard every day. Others are tutoring children and coaching sports teams to help “children reach their destinies,” he added.

When asked about whether he favors impeachment of Trump, Cummings replied that the “time for impeachment may come” but for now he is taking guidance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “The day that any administration disobeys a court order, I am for impeachment,” he added.

National Press Club, Montana governor charts path to presidency, seeks unity among rival Democrats, Louise Walsh, Aug. 8, 2019.  As the national  press club logonation reeled from mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana called on his Democratic rivals to unite around issues Americans truly care about such as sensible gun legislation and health care. He spoke at a National Press Club Headliners event Wednesday

“No real hunter needs a 30-round clip, a bump stock. No real hunter needs a weapon of war, or wants a terrorist or domestic abuser…to get his hands on a weapon,” said the Democratic presidential hopeful, who calls himself a hunter and gun-owner.

The only Democrat reelected in a state President Trump won, Bullock touted his winning record with a Republican-controlled legislature. He explained why that record makes him the best candidate to defeat President Trump in 2020.

“I took on the big banks and used the money we recovered to keep people in their homes,” he said. Laws enacted on his watch saved rural hospitals, cracked down on drug costs and lowered health insurance, ended “dark and foreign money” in Montana elections, reauthorized and expanded Medicaid and reformed student loans. Those are among his favorite examples of how citizens saw their lives improved, he said.

Bullock bristled at being called a moderate when former Club President Thomas Burr introduced him, but liked being called an incrementalist. “For 54 years we’ve added to Medicare,” he said, noting that Medicare didn’t cover hospice care until 1982, and prescription drugs weren’t added until 2003. As for the moderate label, “Making sure everyone has coverage isn’t moderate,” he said, nor is kicking all “dark money and foreign money” out of Montana elections.

“The NRA and other extremist groups have a stranglehold on our politics, with their fists full of dollars” he said. He recalled an earlier time when the NRA was “a hunting, gun safety and shooting organization.” Since 9/11, more Americans have been killed by domestic terrorism, he noted, than by foreign terrorism, according to the FBI. Bullock favors universal background checks, red flag laws, banning bump stocks, and limiting assault weapons among other gun restrictions. He’s able to talk with gun-owners because “I know their hearts.” Gun owners, he added, “respect the weapon and don’t want it to get in the wrong hands.”

Pointing out Trump’s “hateful rhetoric about communities,” Bullock never imagined he’d say this about an American president: “[Trump] gives aid and comfort to the enemies of democracy abroad and incites the enemies of decency at home.”

“That’s why I’m here today,” he said: “I want to see Donald Trump’s presidency end.” He warned his fellow Democrats: “We cannot defeat Donald Trump and the politics of personal destruction if we practice the politics of self-destruction.”

That’s one reason he doesn’t understand why, when Republicans tried and failed 70 times to repeal and replace Obamacare, Democrats are trying the same thing: “It makes no sense to go back to square one. If you abolish private health care, you will lose.”

Just like a house with good bones and a solid foundation, but with leaks in its roof and pipes, the Affordable Care Act needs fixing: “My opponents look at our healthcare system and see a tear-down, I see an add-on. We don’t need a wrecking ball for Obamacare, just a repair job.” Trump will be reelected, he said, if Democrats try to take away their private insurance.

Bullock favors a public option for uninsured Americans, opposes health care for undocumented workers as does the Affordable Care Act, and he wants DACA recipients protected. Unlike some Democrats running for president, he opposes decriminalizing unlawful entry into the United States. If Democrats pursue it, they’re “walking into a trap Trump has set for them.” For 90 years, he said, we enforced borders without putting children into cages. Instead, he calls for comprehensive immigration reform.

On the ballot in 2020, he said, is not only the U.S. presidency and a new Congress, but the American Dream. That dream isn’t dead, but it is on life support, Bullock told his audience. He’s running to fix it. Summoning words from Martin Luther King, he said the American Dream isn’t a myth, “it’s a promissory note.”

More On Cummings Speech

Roll Call, Cummings says he’d like to invite Trump to Baltimore but can’t reach him, Lindsey McPherson, Aug 7, 2019. Maryland Democrat addresses president’s recent attacks on his home city Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said Wednesday that he’d like President Donald Trump, who recently attacked him and his hometown of Baltimore, to visit his district, but he’s been unable to reach Trump to personally invite him.

“Ah God, I want him to come,” the Democratic congressman said at a Wednesday luncheon at the National Press Club, as he addressed Trump’s recent tweetstorm disparaging Baltimore.

Cummings said he wants Trump to see the whole city of Baltimore, as well as other parts of his district, like Baltimore and Howard counties “where the richest of the rich” live.

Turkey-U.S. Plan

Al Jazeera, Turkey, US agree to set up operation centre for Syria safe zone, Tessa Fox, Aug. 7, 2019. Agreement between NATO allies appears to avert, for now, a threatened Turkish operation into northern Syria. Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish a joint operations centre in order to coordinate and manage the setting up of a safe zone in northern Syria.

The agreement on Wednesday came after three days of intense negotiations between officials from the two NATO allies in Turkey's capital, Ankara. The statement did not specify how and when the zone would be created, but it appeared to avert, for the time being, a threatened Turkish operation into the region east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

Pakistan-India Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, Pakistan Warns India Over ‘Illegal Actions’ on Kashmir, Kai Schultz, Suhasini Raj and Salman Masood, Aug. 7, 2019.   Pakistan announced on Wednesday that it would halt trade with India and expel the country’s top diplomat in imran khan pakistan pmIslamabad in retaliation for India’s decision to unilaterally eliminate the autonomy of Kashmir.

The Pakistani government, which also claims the restive region of Kashmir, said it would recall its own chief diplomat based in New Delhi.

india flag mapA statement from a national security committee headed by the Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, shown at right in a file photo, said the changes would be put in place because of “illegal actions” by the Indian government regarding Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority.

Mr. Khan denounced Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, accusing his government of promoting “an ideology that puts Hindus above all other religions and seeks to establish a state that represses all other religious groups.”

Transitions: Toni Morrison

washington post logoWashington Post, Toni Morrison (1931–2019) — Nobel laureate who transfigured American literature dies at 88, Emily Langer​, Aug. 7, 2019 (print ed.). In books such as “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved,” Morrison conjured a black girl longing for blue eyes, a slave mother who kills her child to save her from bondage and other indelible characters who helped transfigure a literary canon long closed to African Americans.

toni morrison 1993 nobel prize portraitToni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who conjured a black girl longing for blue eyes, a slave mother who kills her child to save her from bondage and other indelible characters who helped transfigure a literary canon long closed to African Americans, died Aug. 5 at a hospital in the Bronx. She was 88. She is shown in her 1993 Nobel Prize portrait.

Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for the publishing company Alfred A. Knopf, announced the death and said the cause was complications from pneumonia.

Ms. Morrison spent an impoverished childhood in Ohio steel country, began writing during what she described as stolen time as a single mother and became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. Critically acclaimed and widely loved, she received recognitions as diverse as the Pulitzer Prize and the selection of her novels — four of them — for the book club led by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

 Puerto Rican Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Puerto Rico Supreme Court Rules New Governor Was Unlawfully Sworn In, Patricia Mazzei and Frances Robles, Aug. 7, 2019. The portion of the law cited to justify Pedro Pierluisi’s ascent to the governor’s seat is unconstitutional, the court unanimously ruled. Wanda Vázquez, the secretary of justice, may be sworn in as the island’s third governor in five days.

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court threw the leadership of the island into new turmoil on Wednesday, ruling that the new governor who took over last week, Pedro R. Pierluisi, was sworn in on unconstitutional grounds.

The unanimous ruling ousts Mr. Pierluisi and paves the way for Wanda Vázquez, the secretary of justice, to be sworn in as Puerto Rico’s third governor in five days. Ms. Vázquez has said she does not want the job but would fulfill her duties as next in the line of succession.

The 29-page ruling, which states that Mr. Pierluisi “cannot remain in the position of governor,” will take effect at 5 p.m., “to guarantee an orderly succession.” Mr. Pierluisi has until then to ask for a reconsideration, though the agreement from the nine justices, reached just a day after receiving briefs in the case, suggests the court’s decision is firm.

Media #MeToo Tales

roger ailes wWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Roger Ailes was key player in Palm Beach sexual assaulter club, Aug.7, 2019 (subscription required). Perhaps no one was more instrumental in propelling Donald Trump into the White House than the late founder and CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes.

Ailes, a media adviser to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and a producer of the Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia, was an integral part of Trump’s initial “brain trust” of campaign advisers, headed by political dirty trickster Roger Stone.

Abusive Treatment Of Assange, Manning

Consortium News, Analysis: New Fears for Julian Assange, Joe Lauria, right, Aug. 7, 2019. Journalist John Pilger visited imprisoned WikiLeaks joe lauria head bookfounder Julian Assange on Tuesday and has raised an alarm about Assange’s “deteriorated” health. Pilger said in a Tweet on Wednesday that Assange is “isolated” and treated “worse than a murderer.”

“I now fear for him,” Pilger wrote.

Assange (shown below in a graphic by the human rights magazine The Indicter) is suffering from an undisclosed ailment and has been confined to the hospital ward at the maximum security prison for several weeks. He was arrested on April 11 by British police who were called by the Ecuadorian government into its London embassy in apparent violation of international asylum law. Assange had been granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012. He had been suffering health problems in the embassy but British authorities refused to allow him from leaving the embassy for treatment without being arrested.

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphicAlmost immediately after his arrest the United States unveiled an indictment against him for alleged intrusion into a government computer although the indictment itself describes normal procedures of investigative journalism: encouraging a source to provide more information and working to protect the source’s identity.

On May 23, Assange was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of classified information given to him by WikiLeak‘s source, Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. army intelligence analyst. It was the first time the Espionage Act was used against a journalist for publishing classified information.

Manning, meanwhile, is imprisoned in Alexandria, VA for refusing to testify to a grand jury on Assange’s case. Since Assange has already been twice indicted, it is not clear if a new indictment against him is being prepared.

Judge Imposes New Manning Fines, Denies Hearing

chelsea manning screen shot 2018 06 05 media convention

The now-imprisoned anti-torture former Army intelligence officer and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, right, speaking in Germany in 2018 (screen shot)

ShadowProof, Judge Denies Chelsea Manning A Hearing, Insists Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars In Fines Are Not Punishment, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 7, 2019. A federal judge denied Chelsea Manning’s motion to reconsider fines imposed against her for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. He also undermined due process and refused to hold a hearing.

“Manning has the ability to comply with the court’s financial sanctions or will have the ability after her release from confinement,” Judge Anthony Trenga ruled. “Therefore, the imposed fines of $500 per day after 30 days and $1,000 per day after 60 days is not so excessive as to relieve her of those sanctions or to constitute punishment rather than a coercive measure.”

Trenga additionally insisted that he had the authority to confine her and impose fines as well.

“I am disappointed but not at all surprised. The government and the judge must know by now that this doesn’t change my position one bit,” Manning declared in response to the decision.

Manning has been in jail for 147 days. She already owes $38,000 in fines, as of August 7, and she could owe up to $441,000—nearly a half million dollars—if the sanctions continue.

Her legal team said Manning will “remain confined for another year and will face ongoing financial hardship,” unless Judge Trenga or a higher court is convinced that the fines imposed will “never coerce her compliance” and amount to punishment.

“She has no personal savings, an uncertain speaking career that has been abruptly halted by her incarceration, and is moving her few belongings into storage, as she can no longer afford to pay her rent,” Manning’s legal team made clear in their motion.

Manning’s attorneys further indicated that Manning attempted to share her financial records with the federal court in an effort to show that she has debt and “compromised earning capacity,” which has “left her balance sheets near zero.” But the court apparently never completed a financial assessment of her ability to pay fines.

Trenga acknowledged the “substantial number of financial records documenting her assets, liabilities, and current and future earnings” that were shared with the court. Yet, he maintained they did not present “any new evidence, arguments, or legal authorities” that required the court to conclude it had committed an error by imposing detention, as well as fines.

The judge has “almost unreviewable discretion” when it comes to interpreting her financial records, according to Manning’s legal team.

“Despite the fact that Chelsea is currently deeply in debt, and cannot work while incarcerated, Judge Trenga was able to conclude that fines totalling $441,000 fall within the parameters of a ‘coercive’ sanction, and do not intrude into the forbidden realm of the punitive,” her attorneys stated.

He also stated his belief that continued confinement may yet exert a coercive impact upon Ms. Manning, and asserted that he retains the authority to keep her confined while simultaneously imposing daily fines, a point of law vigorously disputed by Ms. Manning’s lawyers.

Trenga maintained that fining and jailing Manning fell within the court’s “traditional contempt powers.” Manning’s attorneys disputed this “point of law” and argued these types of fines are often reserved for corporations because they can absorb fines without suffering homelessness.

“Rarely, individuals are fined, but counsel can find no case in which fines were assessed as to an individual other than where the individual was a sophisticated financial actor and the underlying contempt involved disobedience of a court order directing the management of a large amount of money,” they asserted in their motion.

Manning can appeal the decision, however, the intransigence of the judge does not bode well for someone who has already endured substantial trauma as a result of her return to confinement.

Aug. 6

Far-Right Violence

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Condemns White Supremacy but Stops Short of Major Gun Controls, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman, djt justice liberty truth metooAug. 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump on Monday denounced white supremacy in the wake of twin mass shootings over the weekend, and citing the threat of “racist hate,” he summoned the nation to address what he called a link between the recent carnage and violent video games, mental illness and internet bigotry.

But he stopped well short of endorsing the kind of broad gun control measures that activists, Democrats and nra logo Customsome Republicans have sought for years, such as tougher background checks for gun buyers and the banning of some weapons and accessories such as high-capacity magazines.

And while he warned of “the perils of the internet and social media,” he offered no recognition of his own use of those platforms to promote his brand of divisive politics. Instead, he focused on a rising intolerance that he has been slow to condemn in the past.

See "Commentary On Far-Right Terrorism" below.

20 Years For Pro-Trump Terrorist

cesar sayoc jr trump rally no credit

Cesar Sayoc, shown at center at a Trump rally, was sentenced to a 20-year term for mailing explosives to Trump critics

washington post logoWashington Post, Cesar Sayoc, who mailed explosive devices to Trump’s critics, sentenced to 20 years in prison, Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett​, Aug. 5, 2019.  The former strip club worker had pleaded guilty to mailing inoperative pipe bombs in the days leading up to last fall's midterm elections.

cesar sayoc nypost front page oct 27 2018Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man who mailed explosive devices to prominent Democrats and media figures, was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after a judge concluded that Sayoc hated his victims but had not meant to kill them.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for the 57-year-old former pizza delivery man and strip club worker, who mailed 16 inoperative pipe bombs last fall, acting out his paranoid delusions and intense support for President Trump.

“I am beyond so very sorry for what I did,” Sayoc told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff. “Now that I am a sober man, I know that I was a sick man. I should have listened to my mother, the love of my life.”

djt maga hatProsecutors and defense lawyers spent much of Monday’s hearing wrangling over how dangerous the packages truly were to those who handled them.

The judge concluded that Sayoc, “though no firearms expert, was fully capable” of building a functioning bomb if he had wanted to do so. “He hated his victims,” the judge added, “but did not wish them dead, at least not by his own hand.”

Sayoc’s defense lawyer Ian Marcus Amelkin pushed for a 10-year sentence, saying he was using large quantities of steroids when he became obsessed in his support for Trump, consuming conspiracy theories from Fox News and elsewhere that fed his rising paranoia.

hillary clinton twitter“It is impossible to separate the political climate and his mental illness when it comes to the slow boil,” Marcus said. Marcus said that Trump’s rhetoric in office contributed to Sayoc’s beliefs, noting that the prosecution — working for Trump’s Department of Justice — failed to make mention of the president in its prosecuting documents.

The Sayoc case began weeks before the 2018 congressional elections, when suspicious packages were mailed to Hillary Clinton, right, former president Barack Obama, and actor Robert De Niro, among others.

Dayton Shooter

New York Post, Inside the dark thoughts and far-left leanings of Dayton shooter Connor Betts, Yaron Steinbuch, Amanda Woods and Aaron Feis, Aug. 6, 2019. Dayton killer Connor Betts’ online footprint provided a glimpse Tuesday into his dark thoughts and far-left political leanings — even as investigators worked to pin down a concrete motive for the massacre.

connor betts facebook“Millenials have a message for the Joe Biden generation: hurry up and die,” read a message retweeted hours before the shooting by Twitter account @iamthespookster, believed to have belonged to Betts (shown in a Facebook photo).

The account, yanked offline in the wake of the early Sunday bloodbath, included multiple selfies that strongly resemble the 24-year-old, and a bio section that reflected what few details have emerged of his personal life, including “he/him / anime fan / metalhead / leftist.”

It’s capped with a dire declaration: “I’m going to hell and I’m not coming back.”

The account fired off thousands of messages — including some supporting presidential hopeful senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the sometimes violent Antifa, or anti-fascist, movement — since it was created in 2013, according to The Washington Post, which snagged over 3,000 of the tweets before the page was pulled.

They include embraces of far-left stances and politicians — including presidential-hopeful senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — as well as the antifa, or anti-fascist, protesters, sometimes known to resort to violent tactics.

“I want socialism, and i’ll not wait for the idiots to finally come round to understanding,” reads one tweet from the account, according to Newsweek.

The account retweeted posts blasting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as “monsters” and referring to migrant detention centers along the southern border as “concentration camps” — echoing language recently used by firebrand New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Cut the fences down. Slice ICE tires. Throw bolt cutters over the fences,” reads one message, encouraging people to actively resist the crackdown on illegal immigrants.

“Losing your personal information in a massive data breach is just a thing that happens now, like 110 degree days and regular mass shootings,” reads another message.

Yet another missive, at odds with the Twitter account’s stream of standard far-left talking points, encourages people to arm themselves.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, July was the hottest month humans have ever recorded, data shows, Brady Dennis and Andrew Freedman, Aug. 6, 2019 (print ed.). "This is not your grandfather’s summer,” said United Nations Secretary General António Guterres. Scientists found that the planet is on pace for one of its hottest years, and the data all but guarantee that the period from 2015 to 2019 will go down as the warmest five-year period on record.

U.S.-China Trade War

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Plunge After China Uses Currency to Escalate Trade War, Ana Swanson, Alexandra Stevenson and Jeanna Smialek, Aug. 6, 2019 (print ed.). The trade war between the United States and China entered a more dangerous phase on Monday, as Beijing allowed its currency to weaken, Chinese enterprises stopped making new purchases of American farm goods and President Trump’s Treasury Department formally labeled China a currency manipulator.

china flag SmallThe escalation shook world markets as nervous investors looked for safe places to park their money. Wall Street suffered its worst day of the year, with the S&P 500 closing down nearly 3 percent. Selling was especially heavy in the trade-sensitive technology, consumer discretionary and industrial sectors.

Yields on United States Treasuries, which fall as prices rise, dropped as investors sought safety in government-backed bonds. Benchmark indexes in Asia and Europe also fell. The sell-off looked poised to continue into Tuesday, as Asian markets slumped again and futures markets predicted a glum Wall Street opening.

• U.S., China trade blows in unrestrained economic conflict, sending markets plunging
• China moves to keep currency

Indian-Pakistani Nuclear Threat?

india flag mapWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump's incompetent foreign policy sets stage for nuclear war, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 6, 2019 (subscription required). With a single lie, Donald Trump set the stage for what could very easily result in the first nuclear weapons exchange between two nations possessing such weapons and the means to deliver them – India and Pakistan.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Peter Strzok, whose anti-Trump texts got him fired from the FBI, sues for reinstatement, Matt Zapotosky, Aug. 6, 2019.
peter strzok croppedThe FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages got him removed from the investigation into Russia’s election interference and ultimately fired from the bureau asked in a lawsuit Tuesday to be reinstated and awarded back pay, arguing he was unfairly terminated for criticizing the president.

Peter Strzok, right, asserted in the suit that the Trump administration had “consistently tolerated and even encouraged FBI logopartisan political speech by federal employees” — but only if that speech praised the president and attacked his opponents.

The former FBI agent who President Trump has attacked repeatedly alleged that his removal was “part of a broader campaign against the very principle of free speech,” which he said was “initiated and led by” the commander-in-chief.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, RNC sue to block Calif. law seeking president’s tax returns, John Wagner​, Aug. 6, 2019. The measure, signed late last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom, requires presidential and gubernatorial candidates to disclose tax returns to qualify for the primary ballot.

Washington Examiner, Federal Election Commission investigating ex-AOC chief of staff Chakrabarti, Alana Goodman, Aug. 6, 2019. Two organizations linked to Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her outgoing senior aides are the subject of a Federal Election Commission investigation into alleged campaign finance violations, the Washington Examiner has learned.

saikat chakrabarti twitterThe FEC opened an official case on March 7 to examine complaints against Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, two campaign committees started by Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff Shaikat Chakrabarti, right, according to an FEC confirmation letter disclosed to the Washington Examiner. The matter was assigned a case number and remains open. Ocasio-Cortez, below left, also sat on the board of Justice Democrats from December 2017 to June 2018, the Daily Caller reported.

The original FEC complaint was filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, and claimed the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress PACs were engaged in "an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures.”

alexandria ocasio cortez officialCampaign finance records indicate that the two PACs transferred over $1 million in political donations to private companies controlled by Chakrabarti, according to the complaint, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner in March. The private companies, which had names that were similar to the PACs, are not legally subject to the same spending restrictions and disclosure requirements as political action committees.

In 2016 and 2017, Chakrabarti’s PACs raised about $3.3 million for a project to help elect liberal candidates, primarily from small donors. During this time, the committees transferred over $1 million to two shell companies controlled by Chakrabarti with names similar to one of the PACs, Brand New Campaign LLC and Brand New Congress LLC, according to federal election filings. According to the National Legal and Policy Center complaint, the arrangement skirted reporting requirements and may have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates.

Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project, said he welcomed the FEC’s decision to look into the matter.

“Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Saikat Chakrabarti have engaged in the most blatant scheme we have seen to avoid transparency and accountability concerning campaign finance and financial disclosure laws,” said Anderson.

National Press Club, NPC Headliners Luncheon: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Staff report, Aug. 6, 2019.  Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., national  press club logochairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will speak at a National Press Club Headliners luncheon on Aug. 7.

elijah cummings head and shoulders oCummings, right, will address the Oversight Committee’s investigations into the Trump Administration. In a recent letter to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Cummings complained that the White House had ignored the committee's requests for information and has not complied with the Presidential Records Act. The committee is seeking notes on President Trump's private conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Cummings, right,who represents Baltimore in Maryland’s 7th congressional district, will also discuss the Oversight Committee’s investigation into the prescription drug industry’s pricing practices, launched earlier this year.

Now serving in his 13th term in the House, Cummings has been an outspoken advocate for affordable health care. He has also been a leader in the fight against drug abuse, as well as the push for urban revitalization and assistance to lower income Americans.

National Press Club, NPC Headliners Newsmaker: Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Steve Bullock, Staff report, Aug. 6, 2019. national  press club logoDemocratic presidential candidate and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will participate in a National Press Club Newsmaker event Aug. 7 in the Club’s First Amendment Lounge.

steve bullock plaid shirt campaignGov. Bullock, right, will discuss the details of his plans to reform campaign finance – an issue that has been central to his bid for the democratic presidential nomination. Gov. Bullock, who was not able to participate in the first round of 2020 Democratic primary debates after the DNC disqualified a survey that he needed in order to make the cut, has secured his place on stage for the second round of debates set for July 30 and 31.

Sworn into office on January 7, 2013, Gov. Bullock has worked with a Republican majority in the state legislature to expand Medicaid, freeze state college tuition and pass one of the nation’s most progressive state-level campaign finance reform packages. He also signed an Executive Order requiring contractors doing business with the State of Montana to disclose their spending on political campaigns. Prior to his election as Governor, Bullock served as Montana Attorney General from 2009 to 2013.

#MeToo: Boy Scouts

washington post logoWashington Post, Boy Scouts failed to stop hundreds of previously unreported sexual predators, a lawsuit alleges, Kayla Epstein​, Aug. 6, 2019. A group of lawyers is claiming to have uncovered hundreds of previously unreported cases of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts, according to a lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania on Monday. The plaintiff in the case, named only as S.D. because he wishes to keep his identity private, is alleging that he was assaulted “hundreds” of times by a scout leader in Pennsylvania over the course of approximately four years in the 1970s.

boy scouts logo customThe lawsuit alleges that S.D.'s abuse would not have been possible had it not been for the negligence of the Boy Scouts, that the organization conspired to keep incidents of sexual assault a secret, and that the organization and other defendants engaged in “reckless misconduct” in failing to protect its young participants.

The litigation stems from an effort to unearth previously unreported cases of child sexual abuse in one of America’s most prominent youth organizations, spearheaded by Abused in Scouting, a group of law firms that collaborate on bringing such cases to light.

Epstein's Connections (Cont.)

Strategic Culture Foundation, Politics and Pedophilia: a Demonic Mix, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 6, 2019. The indictment of wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) on charges of international sex trafficking and a wider conspiracy to commit such activity has sent shock waves throughout the political, business, and social strata of the United States and other countries.

Epstein’s fleet of private aircraft and numerous residences have law enforcement investigators looking deeply into various activities, over several decades, involving Epstein’s recent and distant past. Moreover, according to police reports, court filings, and witness statements, Epstein’s circle of friends includes some of the most politically important people in the world, including President Donald Trump; former President Bill Clinton; Britain’s Prince Andrew, the Duke of York; and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

The Epstein connection to the Trump administration also included Trump’s pick for Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, the US Attorney for South Florida who, in 2007 and 2008, crafted a federal and state of Florida non-prosecution agreement that immunized Epstein and his associates from any future state or federal prosecutions related to Epstein’s trafficking in underage girls. In return for such a “sweetheart” plea agreement, Epstein merely had to plead guilty to a few charges of soliciting prostitution from underage girls, serve a virtual “open door” jail sentence for thirteen months in Palm Beach County, and agree to register as a sex offender. Questions about Acosta’s role with Epstein and the agreement resulted in his resignation as Labor Secretary. Part of Acosta’s duties as Labor Secretary was the monitoring of the sex trafficking of women and children for prostitution pursuant to US laws and international treaties.

The upper echelons of the Israeli political and intelligence structure also feature prominently in Epstein’s circle of associates and friends. Epstein’s mysterious links to unidentified national security interests were heightened after revelations that Acosta, while he was the US Attorney in Miami, was instructed by higher authority “back off” with regard to the Epstein case because Epstein “belonged to intelligence” and that Acosta should just “leave it alone.”

Corrupt Trump Campaigner

New York Daily News, Students for Trump founder pleads guilty to posing as lawyer in $46K scam, Stephen Rex Brown, Aug. 6, 2019. john lambertStudents for Trump founder pleads guilty to posing as lawyer in $46K scam. The founder of Students for Trump pleaded guilty Tuesday to running a $46,000 scam in which he posed as a lawyer and gave legal advice.

John Lambert, 23, right, created a website for a fake law firm called Pope & Dunn and claimed to be Eric Pope, a graduate of NYU Law School with a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania and 15 years of experience in corporate and patent law, prosecutors said.

In brief remarks in Manhattan Federal Court, the babyfaced fraudster from Knoxville, Tenn. said he engaged in the scheme with an accomplice who was not identified.

Lambert said they represented themselves as “qualified lawyers...providing legal services."

He said he was living in North Carolina when he ran the scam between 2016 and 2018.

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy. Under his plea deal with prosecutors, he will not appeal a sentence that is 21 months or less. He also agreed to forfeit $46,654.

“John Lambert represented himself to clients as a prominent New York attorney with a law degree from an elite law school. But Lambert’s de facto career was one of a grifter: he had never been to law school and certainly wasn’t an attorney. Today, Lambert admitted to his crimes and faces time in prison for his misdeeds," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.

Lambert achieved notoriety during the presidential campaign for the group he founded with classmate classmate Ryan Fournier at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., in 2015. They made frequent media appearances and ran a Students For Trump Twitter account featuring photos of bikini-clad women and pics of themselves at political events. Lambert even shook hands with future Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May 2016.

“We’ve been told that we’re more organized than the actual Trump campaign,” Lambert told The Chronicle of Higher Education before the election. Students For Trump distanced itself from Lambert after his arrest in April, noting he’d left the group after Trump’s election.

“We are highly disappointed in his actions and fully condemn the path which John Lambert decided to take after departing from Students for Trump’s executive board,” the group said.

Media Criticism

rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumw

Thirty five years ago, the Chicago columnist Mike Royko nicknamed Rupert Murdoch (shown in a 2009 David Shankbone photo) "The Alien." All these years later, his cable TV brainwash beam is hijacking America., Seeking refuge from ‘the Alien’ invasion, Kyle Whitmore (the state political columnist for the Alabama Media Group), Aug. 6, 2019.  The Alien. That’s what the late columnist Mike Royko called Rupert Murdoch when the Australian tabloid tycoon bought the Chicago Sun-Times. Rather than abetting the debasement of a newspaper he loved, the columnist defected to the rival Chicago Tribune, something that had once been unthinkable in the city’s fierce newspaper rivalry.

“No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in one of Murdoch’s publications,” Royko said. “He puts out trash.”

That was 35 years ago, but that early incursion should have been a warning. Today, Royko is dead, killed by an aneurism in 1997. But the Alien and his influence are very much alive.

When Murdoch made political bias part of his business model, he empowered one political extreme to deliver its message unchecked and uncorrected. And he invited a television audience to live in a different reality from everyone else — one based increasingly on fear instead of facts. Its promise to be “fair and balanced” was the greatest lie in advertising since “part of this complete breakfast.”

The problem with indulging extremes is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know where to stop. By the time Barack Obama was elected to office, the network couldn’t have been more disrespectful of the nation’s first African-American president had its anchors called him the n-word on TV. With a white Republican back in the White House, the network’s critiques of presidential golfing habits have vanished.

And yes, race and racism have been core to the Alien’s attack.

fox news logo SmallThe effect this has had on Fox News’ audience has been profound, and if we all live through this invasion, it will be an interesting field of academic study when it’s all over. When the author Luke O’Neil wrote about his estrangement with his mother after she had become obsessed with the network, he was inundated with accounts, mostly from millennials, who’d seen their boomer parents fall victim to what he calls “Fox News brain.”

For too long, Americans have understood radicalization only as something that happens to other people, most of them brown. Recognizing it from the inside will be much harder. But we must. Because what begins with indulging paranoia, ends with tragedy.

Indeed, we have been invaded, not by hordes of aliens sneaking across our border, but one in particular who flies here when he pleases on his private jet.

2020 Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joaquin Castro just did the right thing, and Trump supporters are howling mad, Bill Palmer, Aug. 6, 2019. Even as Julián Castro runs for president against Donald Trump, his brother Joaquin Castro is doing what he can to stop Trump’s damage from his position in the Democratic House. To that end, Joaquin tweeted a list of San Antonio-area residents who have made the maximum allowable donation to the Trump campaign. Suffice it to say that Trump’s supporters and apologists are less than happy about it.

bill palmer report logo headerJoaquin Castro posted his list of notable Trump donors along with their respective occupations, and added this: “Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump — the owner of ⁦@BillMillerBarBQ⁩, owner of the ⁦@HistoricPearl, realtor Phyllis Browning, etc⁩. Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’”

Castro was clearly looking to motivate the public to boycott these people and their businesses, in the hope that they’ll stop funding Donald Trump’s hate. But the Republicans never miss an opportunity to intentionally misunderstand what’s going on. For instance, GOP Senator Ted Cruz falsely accused Castro of “doxxing” his own constituents. Meanwhile back in the real world, “doxxing” refers to giving out private information about people, such as their phone number or home address or family information. All that Castro did was publicize the names and occupations of Trump donors, which can be easily found in public campaign finance records.

“Morning Joe” Scarborough of all people ended up tweeting the most succinct explanation of what Joaquin Castro did: “Any business that donates to Trump is complicit and endorses the white supremacy he espoused in Charlottesville, with his “send her back” chants, and by laughing at shouts that Hispanic immigrants should be shot. Donors’ names are on FEC reports. They are newsworthy.”

More U.S. Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Republican State Senator finds himself in an ugly mess for telling the truth about Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Aug. 6, 2019. Yesterday, Republican State Senator John McCollister of Nebraska gained significant notoriety for calling it like it is. He accused his own Republican Party, along with Donald Trump, of “enabling white supremacy in our country” as a means to a political end. McCollister received widespread praise for speaking up – but now he’s found himself in an ugly mess over it.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017After John McCollister tweeted his missive yesterday, Palmer Report congratulated him for it, but added that “sadly, the most likely result of McCollister’s bold stand is that he ends up leaving the GOP in disgust.” Now it looks like he may be on that path already, and perhaps not by choice.

Nebraska Republican Party Executive Director Ryan Hamilton announced last night that he’s calling on State Senator bill palmer report logo headerJohn McCollister to leave the Republican Party. Hamilton went so far as to obnoxiously offer to send McCollister a change of voter registration form. The whole thing didn’t go over particularly well. When the Nebraska GOP tweeted a copy of Hamilton’s letter, it received about eight times as many negative comments as likes – never a good sign on Twitter.

But that’s nonetheless where we are as a country right now. The Republican Party is doubling down more than ever on divisiveness and extremism, in the hope of driving a minority of the country to the polls in disproportionately large numbers, so as to outnumber the majority. The only way to break that cycle is for mainstream Americans to turn out and vote Democrat in larger numbers than ever. Short of that, the GOP and the bottom-feeding one-third of the country will continue to paradoxically reign over us.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ocasio-Cortez confronts McConnell over photo of men in ‘Team Mitch’ shirts ‘groping & choking’ her cutout, Tim Elfrink, Aug. 6, 2019. The young men wear matching shirts from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)’s campaign, and cluster around a cardboard cutout of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Several of them hold their thumbs down. One grasps the life-size poster by the waist and pretends to kiss the congresswoman. Another appears to mime his hand around her neck.

alexandria ocasio cortezTo Ocasio-Cortez, right, the photo — originally posted to Instagram and then made viral on Twitter on Monday — suggested an endorsement of violent misogyny.

mitch mcconnell2“Are you paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch?” Ocasio-Cortez asked on Twitter on Monday night.

McConnell’s campaign answered in the negative to both questions, saying in a statement that it “in no way condones” the image and also noting that the men are high school students with no official affiliation.

But as many raced to post the men’s real names and social media accounts, the campaign also suggested it was wrong to cast them into the maw of viral outrage culture and cried hypocrisy, noting a similar controversy that ensnared President-elect Barack Obama’s speechwriter in late 2008.

Impeachment Politics

 nancy pelosi v squad

Rep. Ilhan Omar (top left), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (bottom left), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (center), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (top right), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (bottom right). Photo credit: POMED / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), AFGE / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0), nrkbeta / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0), and MPAC National / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Progressive Insurgents Make Impeachment a Primary Issue, Michael Freeman, Aug. 6, 2019. Democrats have been talking about impeachment all year, but is it starting to divide them? Ask progressive insurgents launching primary campaigns.

Few political leaders would seem more invulnerable than Nancy Pelosi (CA), the speaker of the House and a Democrat in one of the most heavily Democratic cities in the country. But don’t tell that to Shahid Buttar, a 44-year-old San Francisco attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Buttar is in his second primary bid against Pelosi, who has been in the House since 1987. The son of Pakistani immigrants, he has called the speaker’s resistance to the Trump administration “theatrical.” The need to push for impeachment is one of his major campaign issues.

“All I can say is, Speaker Pelosi is either going to proceed with impeachment and there will be a national controversy about it,” Buttar told WhoWhatWhy. “Or her career is going to end in less than a year when she loses the primary to me.”

Impeachment may now be turning into more of a headache for Democrats, dividing them between progressives pushing to move quickly toward impeachment and moderates who are resistant to that approach. As of last week, however, a majority of House Democrats have joined the impeachment bandwagon; more than 20 members were apparently convinced by former special counsel Robert Mueller’s recent testimony before Congress.

Commentary: Far Right Terrorism

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump, Tax Cuts and Terrorism, Paul Krugman, Aug. 6, 2019 (print ed.). Why do Republicans enable right-wing paul krugmanextremism? Why has the Republican Party become a systematic enabler of terrorism?

Don’t pretend to be shocked. Just look at G.O.P. responses to the massacre in El Paso. They have ranged from the ludicrous (blame video games!) to the almost honest (who would have expected Ted Cruz, of all people, to speak out against white supremacy?). But as far as I can tell, not one prominent Republican has even hinted at the obvious link between Donald Trump’s repeated incitements to violence and the upsurge in hate crimes.

So the party remains in lock step behind a man who has arguably done more to promote racial violence than any American since Nathan Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBedford Forrest, who helped found the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization if there ever was one — and who was recently honored by the Republican governor of Tennessee.

Anyway, the party’s complicity started long before Trump came on the scene. More than a decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report warning about a surge of right-wing extremism. The report was prescient, to say the least. But when congressional Republicans learned about it, they went on a rampage, demanding the resignation of Janet Napolitano, who headed the agency, and insisted that even using the term “right-wing extremism” was unacceptable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren’t So Different, Ali H. Soufan (former F.B.I. special agent and the author of “Anatomy of Terror”), Aug. 6, 2019 (print ed.).  We can’t fight domestic terror groups efficiently until the law treats them the way we treat foreign ones.

When a young Muslim man, self-radicalized online, kills in the name of Islamist ideology, we have no trouble calling him a terrorist and connecting him with groups like ISIS. When a young white man, similarly self-radicalized, kills in the name of racist ideology — even when he publishes a manifesto to that effect — we tend to call him disturbed. We speak about him as a troubled loner, rather than a member of a wider network.

The disparities are not limited to cultural perceptions. America’s law enforcement agencies, intelligence community and court system all treat these two scenarios differently. Those differences in treatment mask instructive similarities between these two forms of organized hate. Having spent almost 25 years fighting jihadi terrorism here and abroad, I see disturbing parallels between the rise of Al Qaeda in the 1990s and that of racist terrorism today.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Predicted More Hate-Based Violence. El Paso Won’t Be the End of It, Frank Figliuzzi (former assistant F.B.I. director for counterintelligence), July 31, 2019 (updated to reflect news developments). Three days before a mass shooting that killed at least 21 people in El Paso, I predicted in these pages that we were on the path to a frightening uptick in white nationalistic hate violence.

The El Paso terrorist appears to have been motivated by a racist ideology that cited other mass shootings, including in Christchurch, New Zealand. The F.B.I. has labeled it domestic terrorism and the governor of Texas has suggested that it be prosecuted as a hate crime. I have never felt so badly about being so right.

I made that prediction because I learned from 25 years in the F.B.I., including during a stint as head of counterintelligence, to trust my gut when I saw a threat unfolding. Now, my instinct and experience tell me that El Paso will not be the end of it, and that we are headed for more hate-based violence potentially stoked by a divisive president. (The motive for a second mass shooting on Sunday in Dayton is less clear.)

Yes, President Trump has fallen short of calling for violence against minorities and immigrants. And yes, he condemned racist violence and white supremacy on Monday. But he has yet to apologize for painting people of color as outsiders and invaders, for calling for them to be sent back to where they came from, and for asserting that no humans would want to live in certain American cities. As a consequence, he has given license to those who feel compelled to eradicate what Mr. Trump himself has called an infestation.

USA TODAY via Yahoo, 'Headline was flawed': New York Times changed headline about Trump speech after backlash, Jordan Culver and Adrianna Rodriguez, Aug. 6, 2019. A photo of the front page of Tuesday's New York Times sparked immediate criticism on Monday night – including from several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The headline read "Trump urges unity vs. racism." It comes after President Donald Trump addressed the nation after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that killed nine and 22 people, respectively.

ny times logoThe headline ran in the Times' first print edition and was changed in subsequent editions, The Times told USA TODAY in a statement Tuesday.

The original headline didn't sit well with a number of Democrats.

"Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by – and often relies upon – the cowardice of mainstream institutions," tweeted Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who told CNN over the weekend that Trump was "responsible for this," said via Twitter: "Lives literally depend on you doing better, NYT. "Please do."

Fellow Democratic presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand and Beto O'Rourke – who called the headline "unbelievable" – also sounded off on Twitter.

"The original headline was flawed and was changed for all editions of the paper following the first edition," Danielle Rhoades Ha, vice president of Communications for The Times, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "The headline in question never appeared online, only in the first print edition."

As a result of the controversy, the hashtag #CancelNYT began trending on Twitter Tuesday afternoon as social media users expressed outrage about the headline. Many demanded the resignation of Times editors while pledging to unsubscribe from the paper and calling for others to do the same.

Aug. 5

U.S. grieves after two mass shootings leave 29 dead

patrick crusius el paso shooter

A man shown above and identified as Patrick Crusius, 21, is alleged to have killed at least 20 people on Aug. 3 in El Paso, Texas. The radical conservative, pro-Trump and white nationalist website 8 Chan released what has been described as the shooter's manifesto, in which he vows to kill immigrants.

washington post logoWashington Post: Dayton, Ohio: Police name 9 killed; gunman identified as 24-year-old student, Kevin Williams, Hannah Knowles and Peter Whoriskey​, Aug. 5, 2019 (print ed.). Police said the gunman used a .223-caliber high-capacity magazine and was fatally shot by officers.

• Authorities have identified the gunman as 24-year old Connor Betts, who was fatally shot by officers.
• Nine people fatally shot, including the suspect’s sister, and 27 injured in the shooting in Dayton’s historic Oregon District, according to authorities.
• As of 10 a.m., 15 of those treated by hospitals have been discharged.
• City grieves less than a day after a mass shooting in El Paso that killed 20 people.

washington post logoWashington Post: El Paso, Texas: Federal officials weigh hate crime charges after 20 killed, Robert Moore and Mark Berman, Aug. 5, 2019 (print ed.). The attack on a Walmart and shopping center here, during which a gunman killed 20 people and wounded dozens, is being viewed as a domestic terrorist attack, authorities said Sunday.

Federal authorities are “seriously considering” bringing hate crime charges in the case, John F. Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, said Sunday. Those charges could carry the death penalty. Local prosecutors also say they plan to seek a death sentence in the case.

The investigation in Texas came even as other authorities rushed to respond to a shooting just hours later in Dayton, Ohio, during which at least nine people were slain. The dual shootings in Texas and Ohio — separated by hundreds of miles and less than a single day — sparked grimly familiar scenes of panic and grief as public places were yet again terrorized by a hail of bullets.

patrick crusius cropped el paso ny post aug 4 2019 CustomIt was a ghastly weekend in America, with more than two dozen people killed in the two shooting rampages over the course of a single tragic day. An additional seven people were wounded early Sunday during a shooting in Chicago.

Law enforcement authorities have delved into the background of 21-year-old Patrick Crusius (shown on a New York Post front page), whom two officials identified as the suspect in the shooting here.

Crusius, from the Dallas suburb of Allen, surrendered to police, giving officials a relatively unusual chance to directly interrogate a mass shooting suspect. In many cases, attackers are killed or take their own lives; last week, a gunman opened fire on a food festival in Gilroy, Calif., fatally shooting three people, and then killed himself.

Police said that Crusius has been cooperative, but they declined to go into detail about what he may have said.

Other Aug. 4-5 Headlines, Stories Below

Mass Shooting Backgrounders

Other News

U.S.-China Trade War

washington post logoWashington Post, China lets its currency plunge to a decade low after Trump adds new tariffs, Gerry Shih​, Aug. 5, 2019. The move could provoke further ire from the president, who believes Beijing already artificially suppresses its currency.

China appeared to mount a counteroffensive Monday to new U.S. tariffs by allowing its tightly controlled currency to slide to an 11-year low, a move that could further provoke the ire of President Trump, who believes that Beijing unfairly suppresses the value of the renminbi to bolster Chinese exporters at the expense of the United States.

The currency move came after Trump announced new tariffs Thursday on $300 billion in Chinese goods, effectively escalating the trade war with no end in sight.

Beijing appeared to mount other forms of retaliation on Monday. The government has asked state-owned firms to stop their U.S. agricultural purchases, according to a Bloomberg report Monday that was widely cited by Chinese media. The crop purchases, which came from states that comprise Trump’s political base, were supposed to be a sign of Chinese goodwill as trade talks progressed.

India's Tightens Kashmir Control

ny times logoNew York Times, India Ends Decades of Autonomy for Kashmir, and Pakistan Warns of Crisis, Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Kai Schultz and Hari Kumar, Aug. 5, 2019. India’s Hindu nationalist government on Monday unilaterally wiped out the autonomy of the restive Kashmir region, sending in thousands of army troops to quell any possible unrest the move would bring in a disputed territory fought over by India and Pakistan.

india flag mapGovernment authorities severed internet connections, mobile phone lines and even land lines, casting Kashmir into an information black hole that made it very difficult to discern what was unfolding.

For years, India’s Hindu nationalists have wanted to curtail the special freedoms enjoyed by Kashmir, a mountainous, predominantly Muslim territory that has turned into a tinderbox between India and Pakistan, both of which wield nuclear arms.

On Monday, Amit Shah, India’s home minister, announced in a quick speech, which belied years of steady plotting, that the central government was removing the special, somewhat autonomous status that served as the foundation for Kashmir joining India more than 70 years ago. While international human rights groups swiftly condemned the action, Hindu nationalists celebrated, saying this could bring peace and investment to the war-torn region.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: India Will Come To Regret Today's Annexation Of Jammu And Kashmir, B, Aug. 5, 2019. The right-wing nationalist Hindutva government of India under President Narendra Damodardas Modi just revoked autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. This will create a civil war that could easily evolve into new conflict between the nuclear armed India and Pakistan.

A bit of history is necessary to understand the issue: At the time of the British withdrawal from India, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the state, preferred to become independent and remain neutral between the successor dominions of India and Pakistan. However, an uprising in the western districts of the State followed by an attack by raiders from the neighbouring Northwest Frontier Province, supported by Pakistan, put an end to his plans for independence.

On 26 October 1947, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession joining the Dominion of India in return for military aid. The western and northern districts presently known as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan passed to the control of Pakistan, while the remaining territory became the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir.

Major U.S. Newspaper Merger

washington post logoWashington Post, America’s two largest newspaper chains, GateHouse and Gannett, announce merger, Jonathan O'Connell and Rachel Siegel​, Aug. 5, 2019. The union of McLean-based Gannett and GateHouse Media will create a conglomerate owning hundreds of newspapers.

America’s two largest newspaper publishers will merge in an effort to combat declining circulation and plunging advertising revenue, but will still face pressure to cut costs at hundreds of already cash-strapped publications around the country.

gannett logo CustomThe $1.4 billion purchase of McLean-based Gannett by GateHouse Media, based in Pittsford, N.Y., will create a conglomerate that will own more than 250 daily newspapers and hundreds of weekly and community papers. The new company will retain the Gannett name and will have publications in 47 states, reaching more than 145 million unique visitors each month.

gatehouse media logoExecutives from both companies extolled the deal in a news release as an opportunity to slash up to $300 million in annual overhead costs within 24 months while “continuing to invest in newsrooms” — creating journalism they hope can attract more digital subscribers and advertisers at a time when America employs thousands of fewer journalists than it did a decade ago.

But the efficiencies wrought by the merger may also result in publications that rely less on local reporters and more on USA Today-type stories produced or edited remotely and published in dozens of the company’s publications. Journalists across the country fretted over whether the deal would mean a wave of layoffs.

Andrew Pantazi, a reporter for the Florida Times-Union and president of the newspaper’s guild, said journalists in his newsroom were anxious about any cuts, particularly the elimination of editor roles. Pantazi said the Florida Times-Union has lost its own editors who are reorganized into hubs.

“We’re afraid of that big number: $300 million,” Pantazi said. “We’re afraid of what happens when you have fewer journalists working in the state of Florida.”

Merger marks shift for troubled newspaper giant

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, How one group swindled $8 million designated for hurricane and wildfire victims, according to prosecutors, Lynh Bui​, Aug. 5, 2019. The Maryland men used stolen identities to apply for disaster relief in order to pay their own rents, buy cars and make personal purchases, prosecutors alleged.

In the wake of massive hurricanes and wildfires that pummeled the United States in recent years, the federal government made relief funds available for those who found themselves uprooted amid the rubble of charred or washed-out homes.

But in Maryland — far from where the California wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria struck — a group of residents managed to scam the federal government out of $8 million in relief funds designated for those who needed it most, according to prosecutors. Members of the group, prosecutors allege, were part of a scheme that stole the identities of disaster victims and applied for victim’s benefits — to pay their own rents, buy cars or make personal purchases.

“While many come forward in the wake of disasters to help selflessly, some use disasters to enrich themselves through theft and fraud,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur said in a statement Friday announcing the arrest of two men in the alleged conspiracy.

John Irogho, 38, of Upper Marlboro, has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to federal prosecutors. Odinaka Ekeocha, 33, of Laurel, has been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Their arrests come a few weeks after another Maryland man, Tare Stanley Okirika, 30, of Laurel, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, admitting that he fraudulently obtained government benefits to pay his rent and for other expenses, according to court documents.

At least 16 victims from California, Georgia, Florida and Texas were listed in Okirika’s case, according to his indictment. Investigators with the U.S. Secret Service said he used some of the fraudulently obtained money to buy cars and ship them to Nigeria.

Media Criticism: 2020 U.S. Debates

The Hill Rising, Journalist Michael Tracey: Why the media hates Tulsi Gabbard, Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, Aug. 5, 2019 (13:21 min. video).  Journalist Michael Tracey shares the behind the scenes story for the Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris moment at the second Democratic debate.

Jimmy Dore Show, Tulsi Shuts Down MSNBC Host Mid-Smear, Jimmy Dore, Aug. 5, 2019. (9:03 mins. video, 532,599 views as of Aug. 7).

Media and 'Conspiracy Theory'

Off-Guardian, Commentary: Can the Progressive / “Conspiracy” Divide be Bridged? John Kirby, Aug. 5, 2019. People from a variety of advocacy communities who tackle issues ranging from the assassinations of the 1960’s to vaccine safety are rightly upset by a recent NBC op-ed authored by Lynn Parramore, a progressive journalist known for her insightful pieces for Alternet and other outlets.

lynn parramore 2010 c spanIn the article, Parramore (shown on a 2010 C-SPAN appearance) argues that those who espouse “conspiracy theories” might be displaying “narcissistic personality traits,” suffer from “low self-esteem,” and share a “negative view of humanity.” Various studies are cited in support of this claim.

As a filmmaker acquainted both with the author of the op-ed as well as a number of people from the communities under fire, I hope it’s possible to dispel some of the misconceptions on all sides and even find some common ground.

At the outset, it should be acknowledged that Parramore’s piece is an uncharacteristically harsh ad hominem smear, taking its place in a long line of similar attacks on people who have dared question—sometimes at great personal cost—a whole range of suspect official narratives over many years.

But Parramore and many journalists like her are neither assets of an intelligence service nor unthinking tools of big media; she is fully conscious of the ways in which power and wealth can be used collusively (one might even say conspiratorially) to deceive and abuse the public.

So what accounts for a piece like this one? Why does it rankle a progressive like Parramore so intensely when she hears someone mention that the U.S. military-industrial complex had the most to gain from the September 11th attacks, or that Big Pharma may be applying the same racketeering techniques to the ever-expanding vaccination schedule she discovered at play in the opioid crisis?

Those of us who have labored long to publicize state crimes against democracy have our own list of the psychological, political, and economic factors that may be preventing smart people from seeing evidence that we regard as overwhelming.

The primary difficulty may lie in just how smart and thoroughly educated many of these writers are: no one who has spent a lifetime looking into the way the world works wants to think they might have missed something big.

And as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the more educated we are, the more we are a target for state-corporate propaganda. Even journalists outside the mainstream may internalize establishment values and prejudices.

Which brings us to Parramore’s embrace of the term “conspiracy theory.” Once a neutral and little-used phrase, “conspiracy theory” was infamously weaponized in 1967 by a memo from the CIA to its station chiefs worldwide.

Troubled by growing mass disbelief in the “lone nut” theory of President Kennedy’s assassination, and concerned that “[c]onspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization,” the agency directed its officers to “discuss the publicity problem with friendly and elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)” and to “employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.”

As Kevin Ryan writes, and various analyses have shown: "In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week.”

While it turns out that Parramore knows something about this hugely successful propaganda drive, she chose in her NBC piece to deploy the phrase as the government has come to define it, i.e., as “something that requires no consideration because it is obviously not true.” This embeds a fallacy in her argument which only spreads as she goes on.

U.S. Politics: Israeli Lobby Of Congress

U.S. House Speaker Steny Hoyer (D-MD), right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu file unsourced

U.S. House Speaker Steny Hoyer (D-MD), listens at right to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Mondoweiss, Opinion: Hoyer and 41 Democrats visit Israel on AIPAC-affiliated junket that violates ‘spirit as well as the letter of the law,’ Josh Ruebner, Aug. 5, 2019. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) (Photo: Center for American Progress/Flickr) House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) landed today in Israel with 41 other Democratic Representatives for a week-long, all-expenses-paid junket sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), the educational branch of the lobbying organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Although the delegation also will visit the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank and meet with Palestinians, the Israel-centric nature of the trip is evident from Hoyer’s characterization of it.

“I am pleased to join so many House Democrats in traveling to Israel to reaffirm our support for a critical U.S. ally and to continue learning about the opportunities and the challenges facing Israel and the Middle East,” Hoyer stated. “Seeing the region firsthand and meeting with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders gives Members insights into a region that is vital both to our own national interests and to global security.”

However, in addition to being wary of the one-sided narrative presented to them on this delegation, Representatives also should be aware that they may be unwittingly participating in a delegation which violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law on congressional travel.
Clear Law, Murky Ethics Guidelines

Dr. Craig Holman, Government Affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, who drafted the 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA), designed to curb the influence of lobbyist money in congressional travel, is unequivocal that the arrangement between AIEF and AIPAC “defies the spirit as well as the letter of the law.”

This law bars Members of Congress accepting from an entity “that retains or employs 1 or more registered lobbyists…funds earmarked directly or indirectly for the purpose of financing” congressional travel longer than one day.

However, the congressional ethics committees wrote a loophole into the implementing guidelines and regulations, “widely known as the AIPAC loophole,” Holman told Mondoweiss. HLOGA “intended to ban lobbying firms and any entity that lobbies the federal government from providing gifts of travel to lawmakers, other than a one-day trip to fly a member out to participate in a group’s conference and then fly that member back. But the ethics committees have interpreted the travel rule to allow any lobbying organization to set up a 501(c)(3) charity on paper, and use that charity to pay for congressional travel. This is what AIPAC does through its charity, AIEF.”

Here’s how the shell game works.

The latest memorandum on travel regulations published by the House Committee on Ethics in 2012 does indeed state clearly that the maximum duration of a trip sponsored by entities that employ a federal lobbyist is one day.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires organizations that spend more than $13,000 per quarter on direct lobbying activities to report the names of their lobbyists and the legislation they lobbied for or against.

AIPAC, according to its latest lobbying disclosure filing,spent nearly $700,000 directly lobbying Congress in the second quarter of 2019, making it ineligible to organize congressional travel longer than one day.

This is the reason why travel is organized through its affiliated organization AIEF, which does not engage in lobbying, thereby technically allowing it to organize week-long congressional travel.

So far, so good. However, this arrangement raises eyebrows when the tax returns of the two organizations are inspected. In 2016, the latest year publicly available, AIEF reported on page 57 of its tax return that it does not pay its employees; instead, AIPAC compensates them. And AIPAC duly noted on page 65 of its tax return that it paid tens of millions of dollars to AIEF.

In other words, AIPAC and AIEF admit that the former pays the salaries of the employees of the latter in part to organize congressional delegations that AIPAC is not allowed to organize.

“Though AIPAC was the first lobbying organization to exploit this loophole, it is becoming increasingly common today,” Holman says. “In fact, some lobbying firms have even made use of this loophole. As a result, we are now seeing a significant uptick once again in privately-sponsored travels for members of Congress as a means for lobbying organizations to curry favor with Congress.”
Lobby pressure on first-term members

These biased delegations to Israel prove to be formative in shaping the outlook and policy positions of many first-term Members of Congress, which is why AIPAC and its affiliated organization AIEF place so much importance on them.

A spokesperson for Hoyer declined to provide Mondoweiss with a list of the other Representatives participating and a spokesperson for the House Committee on Ethics, which approves congressional travel, also declined to comment on the delegation.

In June, Jewish Insider published the names of 20 Representatives, most of whom are in their first-term, participating in some or all of the delegation. In addition, first-term Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) announced today his participation.

Also in June, The Intercept published an expose by Akelah Lacy and Ryan Grim, An Invitation You Can’t Refuse: How Rep. Steny Hoyer Makes Sure AIPAC’s Israel Junket Is Well Attended, unmasking Hoyer’s strong-arm tactics to get Representatives to go.

These 42 Representatives will be returning to their districts from their AIEF delegation on August 11 for the remainder of the summer congressional recess. Many will be holding town hall meetings, providing constituents an opportunity to question them about their trip.

Aug. 4

Related Shooting Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, 8chan Is a Megaphone for Gunmen. ‘Shut the Site Down,’ Says Its Creator, Kevin Roose, Aug. 4, 2019. The site is a venue for extremists to test out ideas, share violent literature, and cheer on the perpetrators of mass killings. Fredrick Brennan was getting ready for church at his home in the Philippines when the news of a mass shooting in El Paso arrived. His response was immediate and instinctive.

“Whenever I hear about a mass shooting, I say, ‘All right, we have to research if there’s an 8chan connection,’” he said.

Mr. Brennan started the online message board 8chan in 2013, as a spinoff of 4chan, the better-known message board. In its early years, the site was known as an unmoderated free-for-all site populated by anonymous posters, where shocking and offensive humor reigned.

Now, 8chan is known as something else: a megaphone for mass shooters, and a recruiting platform for violent white nationalists. And Mr. Brennan, who stopped working with the site’s current owner last year, is calling for it to be taken offline before it leads to further violence.

Related story: New York Times, Minutes Before El Paso Killing, a Hate-Filled Manifesto Appears Online, Tim Arango, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Katie Benner, Aug. 4, 2019 (print ed.). The authorities are investigating a 2,300-word screed railing against immigrants that was posted online. Nineteen minutes before the first 911 call alerted the authorities to a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Tex., a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online.

It spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates from Dayton: Nine Victims Identified, Timothy Williams and Farah Stockman, Aug. 4, 2019. Officials said the victims in the Dayton shooting ranged in age from 22 to 57. Police have identified the suspect as a 24-year-old man.

Questions mounted about the motive of a gunman who killed nine people in a popular entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after 20 people were shot dead at a Walmart in El Paso.

The gunman in Dayton was identified as Connor Betts, a 24-year-old white man from Bellbrook, a Dayton suburb. One of the victims was his sister, Megan K. Betts, 22.

HuffPost, Beto O'Rourke links 'racist' Trump to El Paso shootings, Mary Papenfuss, Aug. 4, 2019. Democratic presidential candidate Beto beto orourke o 113th CongressO’Rourke on Saturday blamed Donald Trump in part for the deadly El Paso shootings that killed 20 people because he said the president’s “racism” leads “to violence.”

O’Rourke (shown in a file photo from his four terms in Congress representing the El Paso region) attacked the president when he was asked by an ABC News reporter if Trump had any responsibility for the shootings.

“Yes,” O’Rourke flatly responded.

“We’ve had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years, during an administration where you have a president who’s called Mexicans rapists and criminals,” said the former Texas congressman and El Paso native.

“He is a racist, and he stokes racism in this country,” O’Rourke added.” It does not just offend our sensibilities; it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence."

washington post logoWashington Post, Citing 2018 Capital Gazette shooting, Navy football team apologizes, changes new motto, Cindy Boren, Aug. 4, 2019. Navy’s football coach and players apologized Saturday after quickly changing a motto for the 2019 season — “Load the clip” — that was deemed inappropriate and insensitive in a community still recovering from a fatal shooting last year in the Capital Gazette newsroom, only a few miles from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

“It was a one-minute meeting,” Coach Ken Niumatalolo said during Navy’s football media day and fan fest Saturday (via the Capital Gazette). “I explained that some people had deemed the motto to be insensitive. Our captains didn’t need to hear another word. [The captains] immediately said, ‘Coach, let’s just change it.'

Shooting Backgrounder

NBC News, Trump Signs Bill Revoking Obama-Era Gun Checks for People With Mental Illnesses, Ali Vitali, Feb. 28, 2017.  President Donald Trump quietly signed a bill into law Tuesday rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.

The rule, which was finalized in December, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.

Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.

President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.

Showtime via Rolling Stone, Watch Sacha Baron Cohen Dupe Gun Lobby in ‘Who Is America?’ Clip, Daniel Kreps, July 15, 2018 (10:51 min. video). Sacha Baron Cohen takes a frightening yet funny look at gun rights in America in the first clip from Who Is America?, the new Showtime series that finds the well-disguised comedian duping the likes of Sarah Palin, Roy Moore and Dick Cheney.

In this first look at the seven-episode series, Cohen plays Israeli anti-terrorist expert Col. Erran Morad. The character’s fuzzy logic goal is to “get deadly weapons in the hands of schoolchildren” in an effort to prevent school shootings.

Cohen’s character sits down with gun rights activist Philip Van Cleave to expose the lengths the gun lobby goes to stop any gun control measures, including one bill that would have prevented ages children 4 to 12 from handling logo Custom

“They tried to stop four-year-old children from having access to guns? What is the logic that these people come up with,” Morad asks Van Cleave before recruiting the activist’s help on a “common sense training” instructional video for three-year-olds.

“Just remember to point Puppy Pistol’s mouth at the middle of the bad man,” Van Cleave says in a cartoon schoolroom setting. “Aim at the head, shoulders, not the toes, not the toes.”

With instructional video in hand, Morad then sits down with lobbyist Larry Pratt, head of the 1.5 million-member Gun Owners of America, to help pass a law allowing four-year-olds access to weapons.

“The good thing about toddlers is that they don’t really have fear of guns. This fear is given to them by the media,” Morad says. “Let’s see if we can stop these anti-gun people from getting everyone killed.”

Pratt’s support gives Cohen’s character access to politicians like former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, California congressman Dana Rohrabacher, South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson and radio host Joe Walsh, all of whom back Morad’s proposal to arm preschoolers.

Impeachment Timeline

Palmer Report, Commentary: Elijah Cummings just gave away when Donald Trump’s impeachment is going to happen, Bill Palmer, Aug. 4, 2019. With a growing majority of House Democrats now publicly in favor of impeaching Donald Trump, and the House Judiciary Committee having already opened a low-key impeachment inquiry, it’s a matter of time before impeachment happens. The big question has been when it’ll finally start. Palmer Report has suggested watching the chairs of the big three House committees closely for clues, and one of them just offered a big one.

bill palmer report logo headerHouse Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings just said this to a group of reporters: “There may be a time where impeachment is appropriate. One of the lines for me is when and if the administration disobeys court orders. Then we have no choice, so we will see.” Why does this matter?

House Democrats have spent months fighting legal battles to obtain the evidence and testimony required to put on a convincing elijah cummings head and shoulders oimpeachment hearing. It’s been a fair guess that they’ll begin impeachment once they win those court battles. But now Elijah Cummings, right, is strongly implying that as soon as the courts rule against Trump on impeachment-related matters, they’ll go ahead and use that as a premise for impeachment hearings.

If you’re looking for more clues about Donald Trump’s impeachment going forward, continue to pay attention to the words and actions of House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. They’re driving the impeachment train behind the scenes as much as Speaker Nancy Pelosi is.

U.S. Crime, Politics

Politico, Rod Rosenstein weighs in on Trump-Cummings Baltimore exchange, sort of, Josh Gerstein, Aug. 4, 2019. Rod Rosenstein, the former rod rosenstein us attorneydeputy U.S. attorney general and longtime chief federal prosecutor in Baltimore, is reacting to the high-profile, caustic comments by President Donald Trump about that city's crime problems.

In response to a query from Politico, Rosenstein (a Republican shown at right) did not comment directly on Trump's assertion that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is responsible for his city's violence problem.

However, the ex-prosecutor did echo some of Trump's message, arguing that Baltimore's political leaders have fallen down on the job and the city's voters have done little to hold them accountable.

"Local government is failing in Baltimore," Rosenstein told POLITICO via email. "The best things the government can do to help people are to provide a more effective law enforcement system and a more effective education system."
"They need to make the streets safe for law-abiding citizens and allow motivated students to leave failed schools and get a good education. That will only happen if voters hold elected local officials accountable for crime and education," Rosenstein added. "People get the government they vote for. "

Pressed about Trump's rhetoric — which many lawmakers have described as racist — and his description of Cummings' Baltimore-based district as "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess," Rosenstein declined to comment. (Cummings, as a member of Congress, has no direct role in local police policies.)

Global News Roundup

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexico plans legal action to protect Mexicans in U.S., Mary Beth Sheridan​, Aug. 4, 2019. Mexico will act under international law after the “barbaric” El Paso attack, the foreign minister said. Mexico’s foreign minister denounced the mass shooting in El Paso as “unacceptable” and said Sunday that his government would pursue legal action to protect the Mexican and Mexican American communities in the United States.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said a number of Mexicans were killed and nine wounded in the attack at a shopping center in the border city. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said earlier that three Mexicans were slain, but Ebrard did not confirm the number.

“Mexico declares its profound rejection and complete condemnation of this barbaric act, in which innocent Mexican men and women lost their lives, and nine [Mexicans] were wounded,” Ebrard said in a recorded message on his Twitter feed.

He said his government’s first priority was to help the victims, and the second to pursue legal action to ensure that “conditions are in place to protect the Mexican American community, and Mexican men and women in the United States. What has happened is unacceptable.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. launches last-ditch effort to stop Turkish invasion of northeast Syria, Karen DeYoung, Souad Mekhennet and Louisa Loveluck​, Aug. 4, 2019. Syrian Kurds prepare for battle and warn that thousands of Islamic State fighters could break out of prison.

With tens of thousands of Turkish troops massed near the border, a high-level Defense Department delegation plans to present what U.S. officials describe as a final offer to address Turkey’s concerns at a meeting Monday in Ankara.

The meeting marks the climax of a years-long dispute between the two NATO allies over U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who have led the ground war against the Islamic State, but whom Turkey considers a terrorist threat to its own security. Kurdish-led victories against the militant group have effectively left them in control of much of the border area.

Failure of the U.S. effort could throw the war-devastated region into even deeper turmoil, endangering efforts to rout Islamic State remnants and President Trump’s goal of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong protesters paralyze a range of neighborhoods ahead of a planned general strike, Casey Quackenbush, Aug. 4, 2019. The protests, now in their ninth weekend, sent police on a chase through the city Sunday night and showed signs of intensifying ahead of a general strike on Monday. Black-clad protesters chanted “Monday! Strike!” as they flooded into the busy shopping district to occupy the city’s cross-harbor tunnel and paralyze other major thoroughfares.

Trump's Pledge To Saudis

djt saudi orb abdel al sissi salman

Donald Trump breaks protocol in 2017 by making his first overseas trip to visit the kingdom of the murderous Saud family, whose leader is at Trump's right as they engage in a unity ceremony.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is even more of a Saudi puppet than we thought, BD Holly, Aug. 4, 2019. We really didn’t need more concrete evidence that Trump is bought and sold by one-percenters, and yet here we go.

Vice reports that Trump’s first 2016 campaign chairman and now convicted criminal, Paul Manafort, orchestrated a scheme to let the bill palmer report logo headerUnited Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia edit one of Trump’s stump speeches focused on energy. He did this in conjunction with Thomas Barrack Jr., right, himself a Republican megadonor who led Trump’s inaugural committee, which is also under scrutiny for allegations of corruption.

tom barrackheadshotAs stated in the piece by Vice, Saudi Arabia Edited a Trump “America First” Campaign Speech. Manafort Helped Them Do It, this was done “all in what appears to be an attempt to allow nuclear-tech sharing that could have led to a lucrative deal for Barrack, to finance the construction of nuclear power plants in the Middle East.”

Naturally, a few questions logically follow. Was Trump in on this? If so, was he getting a kickback? How have the UAE and Saudi Arabia influenced Trump with this and other potential improprieties? Has this happened with other nations or groups?

My thoughts: If Trump wasn’t in on it, I’d be surprised. Trump would likely not risk something like this without getting a cut. Saudi influence in particular has been a flashpoint with Congress, as Trump repeatedly gives way to Saudi interests at the cost of American interests. Trump’s unusual defenses of dictators the world over, not just Mohammed Bin Salman and other Saudi Royals, might have deeper roots than previously thought.

This revelation, that Trump’s team and by extension Trump himself, let foreign powers edit a speech of his as a presidential candidate is shocking. Democrats need to take this information and run with it. It’s a clear-as-day example of Trump’s disinterest in American wellbeing and compulsion to self-serve at the costs of hundreds of millions of people. Listen up Democrats: this is gold and you can’t let this slip through the cracks. Imagine the Republican response if Bernie Sanders had a speech about healthcare edited by the Norweigians.

Another Gulf Tanker Seized

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Says It Has Seized Another Oil Tanker in Persian Gulf, Vivian Yee, Yonette Joseph and Iliana Magra, Aug. 4, 2019. Iran seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, state television reported on Sunday, the third time Tehran has reported detaining a tanker in the last month as the United States applies its campaign of “maximum pressure,” sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the country.

The tanker was detained by the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on Wednesday, along with the seven members of the ship’s foreign crew, according to official Iranian news agencies, which cited a naval commander. Iran said the tanker was “smuggling” fuel to some Arab states, without offering evidence.

The oil tanker was an Iraqi ship, the official IRNA news agency reported, quoting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Trump administration has tried to force Iran into submission by choking off its oil sales, the cornerstone of the country’s economy. Iran has responded by lashing out at the West through provocations small and large — including the recent tanker seizures — raising fears that any miscalculation and tit-for-tat responses would escalate into war.

The Trump administration’s stated goal is to extract a nuclear deal from Iran that is more favorable to American interests than the 2015 agreement that President Trump abandoned last year. Critics say, however, the administration has only undermined any path to diplomacy by making demands that Iran cannot accept.

The Iranians, in turn, have taken steps to renege on their commitments under the 2015 deal and have threatened to violate the agreement further unless European countries that co-signed the deal offer some relief from the sanctions. The Europeans have made clear that they hope to preserve the deal, but they have not been able to give a meaningful boost to Iran’s economy, which is reeling under the weight of the sanctions.

That has led to a split between Europe and the United States despite their common interest in making sure crucial oil shipping routes in the Persian Gulf are protected against Iranian and other threats.

Aug. 3

White Rage Shooting In El Paso

washington post logoWashington Post, Multiple people killed in shooting at El Paso mall, Hannah Knowles, Morgan Krakow and Michael S. Rosenwald, Aug. 3, 2019. At least 20 people were killed and 40 injured in a shooting at a Walmart and neighboring stores in El Paso on Saturday afternoon, sending shoppers racing for cover in a chaotic scene that prompted a massive police and medical response, local authorities and government officials said.

At least 23 are still being treated in hospitals, authorities said. Authorities identified a man in custody as Patrick Crusius, 21, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

One official said that the specific number of people killed and wounded was subject to change, noting that some of the victims were critically wounded.

Authorities are also investigating a manifesto that includes remarks attacking immigrants and is sympathetic to the Christchurch attacker accused of killing 49 people in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques this year, according to the two officials. Authorities have not confirmed that the manifesto is from the same attacker but continue to investigate it.

• Photos: The scene after the El Paso shooting

ny times logoNew York Times, Minutes Before El Paso Killing, a Hate-Filled Manifesto Appears Online, Tim Arango, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Katie Benner, Aug. 4, 2019 (print ed.). The authorities are investigating a 2,300-word screed railing against immigrants that was posted online. Nineteen minutes before the first 911 call alerted the authorities to a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Tex., a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online.

It spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners.

The authorities were scrutinizing the 2,300-word screed on Saturday and attempting to determine whether it was written by the same man who killed 20 people and injured more than two dozen others near the Mexican border.

Police officers were interviewing the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white man from Allen, Tex., a roughly 10-hour drive to the Walmart. What brought him to a crowded shopping center in El Paso is one of the many questions on the minds of investigators.

Trump Drops Spy Nominee

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Drops Spy Chief Pick After Bipartisan Pushback, Charlie Savage, Julian E. Barnes and Annie Karni, Aug. 3, Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)2019 (print ed.). Senators had questioned whether Representative John Ratcliffe, an outspoken Trump supporter, was qualified to be the director of national intelligence. Mr. Ratcliffe also faced questions over whether he had exaggerated his résumé.

President Trump on Friday abruptly dropped his plan to nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, left, Republican of Texas, as the nation’s top intelligence official after questions by Republicans and Democrats john ratcliffe headshot Customabout his qualifications and concern over whether he had exaggerated his résumé.

Mr. Ratcliffe, a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump, had come under intense scrutiny since the president declared on Sunday on Twitter that the lawmaker was his pick to succeed Dan Coats, who is stepping down as director of national intelligence on Aug. 15. The selection generated scant enthusiasm among senators of both parties, who would have decided whether to confirm him.

Mr. Trump, in his post announcing that Mr. Ratcliffe would not be his nominee after all, spoke bitterly of the attention that Mr. Ratcliffe’s overstated claims about his experience as a federal prosecutor quickly received from the news media. “Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media,” he wrote.

• New York Times, The selection of Representative John Ratcliffe had generated scant enthusiasm among senators of both parties.

• Washington Post, Ratcliffe is disengaged from House Intelligence Committee’s work on Capitol Hill, officials say

Global Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s new tariffs take aim at heart of the U.S. economy: Consumers, David J. Lynch, Damian Paletta and Heather Long, Aug. 3, 2019 (print ed.). Administration officials insisted Friday that President Trump’s latest tariffs on Chinese goods would not china flag Smallpunish consumers even as some White House aides privately acknowledged the move damaged prospects for the slowing economy to rebound this year.

Trump unveiled new trade ­barriers targeting made-in-China consumer products just one day after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell warned that the president’s trade policies were sapping business investment.

The move to impose a 10 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods starting Sept. 1 is a striking economic gamble as the president approaches a 2020 reelection campaign. Investors, his political opponents and the Chinese government all scrambled to respond. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 98 points to close at 26,485.01 Friday, its fourth straight daily decline.

U.S. 2020 Elections / Impeachment

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Not so bright, our Democratic candidates, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Aug. 3, 2019 (74:16 mins). We are dealing with a webster tarpley 2007full-fledged crisis of the Democratic Party. It is moral. It is political. It is civic. It is a massive irresponsibility and it shows the ultimate logic of the identity groups. You get a political imbecility about the big questions and essentially pandering to each of these individual groups because you're're hoping to get their votes in the primaries.

Where that leaves us vis-a-vis Trump is anybody's guess. Of course, he does the same thing, except that he's going after what he regards as the largest identity group: White workers, the white middle class and white lower class. He's lost a lot of them because of his vulgarity and hooligism and his quisling attitudes, but still....

The news, of course, is impeachment. This gradual, granual process, which is assembling the majority in the House, which is going to bring down Trump. That's what's going on, not these gestulating thespians with their histrioics on the [Democratic debate] stage in Detroit -- mainly proving that it's hard to see who's fit for the presidency. They're all going to require some reform.

Every day brings a new vote for the impeachment inquiry. That of course gives added power in the courts for the various subpoenas and sets up a constitutional crisis, maybe, depending on what Trump and Barr do. But enforcement, accountability, asserting the Constitution. That's exactly what we have been recommending. It is slowly but surely boxing in [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, forcing her to smile and go along with the process.

U.S. Political Corruption?

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP senator held up nominee after military panned construction firm he prefers for border wall, Nick Miroff and Damian Paletta, Aug. 3, 2019 (print ed.). A Republican senator held up the confirmation of a White House budget official this week in an attempt to obtain sensitive information about border wall contracts he has been trying to steer to a major donor, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

kevin cramerThe emails show Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) blasting the “arrogance” of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after senior military officials told him the contracts contained sensitive, proprietary information provided by the companies that could not be shared.

In recent months, Cramer, right, has touted his preferred construction firm, North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, and campaign finance records show the senator has received thousands of dollars in contributions from company chief executive Tommy Fisher and his family members.

Cramer put a temporary hold this week on the confirmation of Michael Wooten, a nominee for a senior post at the White House Office of Management and Budget. After Wooten was confirmed Thursday, Cramer lashed out at the Army Corps in private emails when he was told the contracting bids contain sensitive information.

Fisher Industries was hired by activist group We Build the Wall to install a span of steel bollard fencing this spring on erik princeprivate land west of El Paso. Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince, left, and immigration hard-liner Kris Kobach are among the board members of the group, which says it has raised $25 million through private donations.

For Fisher, the project has been a showcase for what it says are innovative techniques that install the steel fencing faster and cheaper than its competitors. Despite Cramer’s efforts to influence and the president’s endorsement, Fisher was not picked by the Army Corps in recent rounds of bidding.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Sidelined on the national stage, U.S. governors are frustrated with Washington, Tim Craig, Aug. 3, 2019. Overshadowed by President Trump and turned off by hyper-partisanship in Washington, governors, who were once the talent pool of America’s political parties, are finding themselves increasingly sidelined in the national debate.

The bipartisan angst, playing out in both the presidential contest and in state capitals across the country, is driven by a widely held belief among chief executives that their accomplishments are going unnoticed as pundits and news media seem solely focused on events in Washington. As a result, some are choosing to walk away from a national political stage that they view as too divisive, while others strategize about how to reinsert themselves in the nation’s affairs.

In the states, “the conversation, the discussion and the dialogue is healthy, and [Washington] has moved away from that,” said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). “They need to do what governors do. They need to sit down at the table, and they need to talk about issues, and we need to find some common ground. . . . This inability to do that is not healthy for this country.”

U.S. 2020 Elections

bernie sanders elizabeth warren july 3 2019 dem debate intros screengrab cnn

U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and  Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) greet one another before the July 30, 2019 presidential debate in Detroit (screengrab).

Palmer Report, Opinion: So that was all for nothing, Bill Palmer, Aug. 3, 2019. Two new major polls have been conducted and released since joe biden headshotthe latest debates, one from Politico and the other from Harris. In both polls, Joe Biden, right, still has the same size lead he did before the debate, within the margin of error. So for all the talk about whether his uneven but improved second debate performance helped or hurt him, these polls suggest zero mind were changed. There’s more – or should we say less.

bill palmer report logo headerMost people think Elizabeth Warren won the first night’s debate. In one new poll she went up two points. In the other poll she went down a point. Lots of people think Cory Booker was the breakout star of the second night’s debate. He stayed the same in one poll and went down a point in the other.

You get the idea. The polls say that this latest round of debates didn’t change anyone’s minds. In other words, it was all for nothing, right? Well, maybe not. If you tuned in to the debates, what you heard was a spirited discussion on some of the most important issues facing America.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Fuels Racial Disharmony. How Will Black Voters React? Reid J. Epstein and Jonathan Martin, Aug. 3, 2019. Democratic leaders say African-Americans are deeply engaged in this election, but President Trump is also targeting them with Facebook ads.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017Whether they are motivated or discouraged may well determine his future.

President Trump’s entire approach to people of color — his attacks on political leaders, his campaign’s social media strategy targeting the black electorate, his ability to fuel black opposition but also demoralize some black voters — is one of the most extraordinary political dynamics of the Trump era.

No modern president has ever vilified black Americans or sought to divide people along racial lines like Mr. Trump, while also claiming to be a champion of their economic interests.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Take Texas seriously’: GOP anxiety spikes after retirements, Democratic gains, Robert Costa and Robert Moore, Aug. 3, 2019 (print ed.). A rising GOP star announced he would not seek reelection at a time when changing demographics and a wave of liberal activism have given new hope to Democrats.

Republicans have long idealized Texas as a deep-red frontier state, home to rural conservatives who love President Trump. But political turbulence in the sprawling suburbs and fast-growing cities are turning the Lone Star State into a possible 2020 battleground.

rnc logo“The president’s reelection campaign needs to take Texas seriously,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said in an interview. He added that while he remains optimistic about the GOP’s chances, it is “by no means a given” that Trump will carry Texas — and its 38 electoral votes — next year or that Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) will be reelected.

For a state that once elevated the Bush family and was forged into a Republican stronghold by Karl Rove, it is an increasingly uncertain time. Changing demographics and a wave of liberal activism have given new hope to Democrats, who have not won a statewide elective office since 1994 or Texas’s presidential vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Recent Republican congressional retirements have stoked party concerns, particularly the surprising Thursday announcement by a rising star, Rep. Will Hurd, that he would not seek reelection in his highly competitive district, which stretches east from El Paso along the Mexican border.

AOC Staffers Ousted

ny times logoNew York Times, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff and a second aide are leaving her office after clashing with House members, Catie Edmondson, Aug. 2, 2019. Two of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s top aides who were instrumental in forging her unexpected path to victory last year are leaving Capitol Hill, less than a month after one of them ignited a firestorm by challenging Speaker alexandria ocasio cortezNancy Pelosi and comparing moderate House Democrats to segregationists.

House Democrats had been privately calling for the ouster of Saikat Chakrabarti, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s embattled chief of staff. He and Corbin Trent, her communications director, had gone to Capitol Hill determined to wage their confrontational brand of progressive politics forged as leaders of Justice Democrats, a group dedicated to unseating entrenched Democratic lawmakers through primary campaigns. Justice Democrats helped Ms. Ocasio-Cortez sweep to nancy pelosi opower with the defeat of a veteran House Democrat, Joseph Crowley.

But less than a year later, after a bruising skirmish this summer with Democratic leadership, both are calling it quits, they told The Intercept on Friday. Their departures will be seen as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s most tangible peace offering since her private meeting last week with Ms. Pelosi.

Mr. Chakrabarti, right, “has decided to leave the office of Representative Ocasio-Cortez to work with New Consensus to further develop plans for a Green New Deal,” Mr. Trent told The Intercept, referring to the congresswoman’s ambitious climate change program. “We are extraordinarily grateful for his service to advance a bold agenda and saikat chakrabarti twitterimprove the lives of the people in” New York’s 14th District.

The New Consensus is a liberal nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting the Green New Deal. Mr. Trent will return to working on Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign.

Mr. Chakrabarti, intent on continuing his anti-establishment movement from inside the halls of power, had rankled lawmakers and aides on Capitol Hill after he posted on Twitter his support for liberal candidates trying to topple sitting Democrats and his disdain for Ms. Pelosi’s legislative prowess. His challenges to elected leaders were considered in Congress to be remarkable breaches of protocol from an unelected aide.

Global Policies: Iran

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: With a Democrat, a Cooler Head Would Prevail on Iran, Carol Giacomo, right, Aug. 3, 2019 (print ed.). One point of carol giacomoagreement for the presidential candidates: The nuclear deal needs to be restored. While President Trump has escalated pressure on Iran, even coming close to launching a military strike, most Americans want the United States to reduce tensions and return to the 2015 nuclear agreement from which Mr. Trump withdrew, according to a new poll by the Center for American Progress.

iran flag mapThe leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination are on that wavelength.

Most would rejoin the deal provided that Iran resumed full compliance, although there were variances in how the candidates would go about it, according to questions I sent to the candidates who rated at least 2 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average — former Vice President Joe Biden; Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; and the former House member Beto O’Rourke.

Global Leadership In History

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met at Yalta in February 1945 to discuss their joint occupation of Germany and plans for postwar Europe. Behind them stand, from the left, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Fleet Admiral Ernest King, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, General of the Army George Marshall, Major General Laurence S. Kuter, General Aleksei Antonov, Vice Admiral Stepan Kucherov, and Admiral of the Fleet Nikolay Kuznetsov. February 1945. (Army) [Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 111-SC-260486 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 750"]

Strategic Culture Foundation, A Global Leadership Deficit Quotient, Wayne Madsen, right, Aug. 3, 2019. In an age of rapid information strategic culture logoexchange and ubiquitous mass media operations and options, the world has never before seen anything approaching the current wayne madsen newerglobal leadership deficit. During the World War II years, the forces of fascism were defeated because there were Allied leaders who exercised the leadership qualities necessary to rid the world of Nazi Germany and Imperial Italy and Japan.

There were the “Big Three” leaders: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. They were ably supplemented by the supporting cast of Free French leader Charles de Gaulle, Australian Prime Ministers Robert Menzies and John Curtin, Canadian Prime Minister William Mackenzie King, South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser, Chinese leaders Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, King Haakon II of Norway, Greek government-in-exile Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Polish government-in-exile Prime Minister Wladyslaw Sikorski, All India Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia.

Out of the wartime armies and governments emerged a new set of leaders who would help create and nurture the United Nations and keep the post-war world from annihilating itself with nuclear weapons. General George Marshall would emerge as President Harry S Truman’s Secretary of State. General Dwight D. Eisenhower would be elected President of the United States and serve an eight-year term, passing the torch to a World War II Navy Lieutenant named John F. Kennedy. Soviet Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov would serve in the Soviet Politburo and as Minister of Defense. De Gaulle would see France through as its president during the upheavals of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Jinnah became the founding leader of Pakistan, while Mao Zedong became the founder of the People’s Republic of China. Papandreou battled against the Greek military’s influence over his country’s affairs until the 1967 military coup and the imposition of a dictatorship.

Three successive United Nations Secretaries General – Trygve Lie of Norway, Dag Hammarskjold, and U Thant – used their offices to promote peaceful dialogue over war. Hammarskjold would pay with his life while trying to negotiate an end to the Congolese civil war.

Whether they were former military commanders or wartime government officials, the post-war years produced the individuals who would help guide colonies to independence in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. The leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement would offer the world a third choice between the capitalist West and the Communist Bloc.

White House Pulls Pass

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New York Post, White House yanks Playboy reporter’s credentials after Rose Garden snafu, Mary Kay Linge, Aug. 3, 2019. The White House reporter who nearly sparked a Rose Garden brawl last month has been punished with a temporary suspension of his press credentials.

Brian Karem, a reporter for Playboy and a CNN political analyst, tweeted that his White House press pass will be suspended for 30 days, starting Monday, for getting into a shouting match with former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka (above).

“I can and will appeal this decision,” Karem tweeted Friday — joined by his Playboy bosses, who called the sanction “incredibly concerning.”

The heated July 11 dust-up broke out at a Social Media Summit for President Trump’s online supporters — who Karem denounced as being “eager for demonic possession.”
Gorka then shouted at Karem, “You’re not a journalist. You’re a punk!” video of the encounter shows.

“Come on over here and talk to me, brother. Or we can go outside and have a long conversation,” Karem responded.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just tipped off how much trouble he’s truly in, Bill Palmer, Aug. 3, 2019. Donald Trump’s White House just suspended the press credentials of CNN reporter Brian Karem for thirty days. The Trump regime has told the Washington Post that the suspension was because Karem got into an argument with Trump lackey Sebastian Gorka during a White House event three and a half weeks ago. But this doesn’t add up at all.

bill palmer report logo headerWhy suddenly suspend Karem now, for something that happened in early July? And why bother suspending him when the courts have already cracked down on this kind of nonsense in the Jim Acosta case? Karem will have his credentials back in a lot less than thirty days, and going after this respected member of the media will only have served as a way to distract the media. But then that’s the point.

Donald Trump’s worsening scandals, increasingly erratic behavior, heightening impeachment prospects, and whatever else is coming down the pike have added up to some kind of crisis in the Republican Party, which finally reached a crescendo this week. Six House Republicans have recently announced they won’t bother seeking reelection. The Republican Senate is suddenly forcing Trump to get his Director of National Intelligence debacle under control.

Aug. 2

Inside DC

Politico, The Next Big Vote on Gun Control May Be in the Supreme Court, Renato Mariotti, Aug. 2, 2019. Congress gave gunmakers immunity supreme court graphicfrom lawsuits. Now the issue is before the Roberts court. After this weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, pressure to reform gun laws has focused on Congress — and, as usual, Congress seems stymied about what to do. But with far less attention, an important strand of the debate has now landed in the Supreme Court.

Last week, the gun-maker Remington, which had annual sales of approximately $600 million in 2017, asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Connecticut decision that gave Sandy Hook families the ability to sue the company over the way it marketed the weapon used in the 2012 school massacre.

The ability to bring suits against gun manufacturers would give American citizens a powerful tool to hold gun-makers liable for the damage their weapons cause — much as cigarette companies were vulnerable to suits for the harms of tobacco. It’s not clear whether John Roberts’ court will take the case, and if it does, whether it will side with the families or uphold protections that gun-makers have enjoyed since the Bush administration.

Politico, The scramble to secure America’s voting machines, Eric Geller, Beatrice Jin, Jordyn Hermani and Michael B. Farrell, Aug. 2, 2019.  Paperless voting devices are a gaping weakness in the patchwork U.S. election system, security experts say. But among these 14 states and their counties, efforts to replace these machines are slow and uneven, a Politico, survey reveals.

Tens of millions of Americans vote in counties and states that use paperless voting machines — devices that security experts say can be undetectably hacked and offer no way to audit the results when errors occur. Russia’s election interference in 2016 has spurred new demands for state and local governments to switch to machines that produce a paper record of every vote.

Whistleblower's 2016 Story

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washington post logoWashington Post, Her Cambridge Analytica work helped elect Trump. She’s hoping the world will forgive her, Craig Timberg and Rosalind S. Helderman, Aug. 2, 2019. Brittany Kaiser wants to be remembered as a whistleblower and a human rights advocate. But a new documentary about her experience leaves out two important elements.

brittany kaiser harper collins juliantseBrittany Kaiser (right) first emerged in last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal as a seemingly nefarious figure, an insider steeped in the dark secrets of a new kind of voter manipulation powered by Facebook data. To make matters worse, news reports also raised questions about Kaiser’s mysterious dealings with WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange at a time when he remained holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.

For Kaiser — at the time a 30-year-old Democrat from Texas who’d become business development director for Cambridge Analytica, a firm created to elect Republicans — the massive wave of critical news reports about the company threatened to deliver catastrophic damage to her reputation and even made her fear possible arrest.

So she did something drastic: Kaiser fled to Thailand, and she let a crew of filmmakers tag along.

What followed was a highly public — and still unfinished — quest for moral redemption that has played out across the globe and, now, in a Netflix documentary called “The Great Hack,” released July 24. It includes images of Kaiser up to her shoulders in a giant pool under an impossibly blue sky in Thailand, uncertain what to do.

And it later depicts Kaiser, in a far more determined frame of mind, testifying before the British Parliament about the many unsavory deeds of her former employer and warning of the ongoing privacy threats posed by Facebook, whose dealings with Cambridge Analytica resulted in July in more than $5 billion in U.S. fines.

But two important elements are missing from the film.

newsweek logoNewsweek, Who Is Brittany Kaiser? Netflix Documentary 'The Great Hack' Casts Light on Central Whistle-blower in Cambridge Analytica Scandal, Sophia Waterfield, Aug. 2, 2019. Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which focuses on the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, includes an exposé of Brittany Kaiser, a former senior director at the now-defunct company who turned whistle-blower.

The documentary follows the investigative reporting by British journalists Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, who exposed the Facebook data harvesting and manipulation carried out by Cambridge Analytica. The company used this data to manipulate discourse around divisive political issues, supporting the likes of the Donald Trump 2016 presidential election campaign, and Britain's Leave.EU campaign which advocated for Britain to leave the European Union.

The Great Hack goes into detail on how Cambridge Analytica worked with politically-motivated campaigners to persuade uncertain voters about which party or cause to vote for.

Kaiser, who was interviewed for the documentary by Paul Hilder, explains how the company targeted Americans and others during political campaigning: "What this strategy is mostly meant to do is to identify people who are still considering many different options and educate them on some of the options that are out there," she explains in the film. "And if they're on the fence, then they can be persuaded to go one way or the other. Again, that is their own choice."

washington post logojohn ratcliffe headshot CustomWashington Post, Trump’s pick to lead U.S. intelligence claims he arrested 300 illegal immigrants in a single day. He didn’t, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, Aug. 2, 2019 (print ed.). The claims of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) about a 2008 operation conflict with the court record and the recollections of others who were involved — at a time when he is already under fire for embellishing his record.

Puerto Rican Gubernatorial Change

 ricardo rossellony times logoNew York Times, Puerto Rico’s Governor Steps Down and Successor Steps In, but Dispute Isn’t Over, Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei, Aug. 2, 2019. After the deparure of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, right, Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in as secretary of state. His ascent to the governor’s seat will most likely be contested in court.

The latest round of high-stakes politicking took place inside the marble-lined halls of Puerto Rico’s Capitol in San Juan, where Mr. Rosselló had convened a special session to confirm Pedro R. Pierluisi, the island’s former nonvoting representative in Congress, as his successor. But some legislators from Mr. Rosselló’s ruling New Progressive Party, offended that he had not consulted them over Mr. Pierluisi’s nomination, had other plans.

Thomas Rivera Schatz, the powerful president of Puerto Rico’s Senate, who wants to be governor himself, declared that Mr. Pierluisi did not have the votes to win confirmation as secretary of state, the next in line to succeed the governor.

won the men their freedom after nearly six years of legal and political machinations. He worked with several white attorneys; the NAACP insisted on white lawyers and, ironically, did not at first trust the talents of Jones.

Major U.S. Virgin Islands Hack Attack

Virgin Islands Consortium, VIPD Case Files Wiped Out From Computers Following Intrusion; Hackers Demanding Ransom For Access, Ernice Gilbert, Aug. 2, 2019. Were it not for hardcopies of important case files that V.I.P.D. Commissioner Nominee Trevor Velinor said the police department had saved for use as backup, an untold number of cases — involving everything from murder to rape — would have been lost, resulting in possibly a mass dismissal of court trials and creating a problem that would overwhelm the department.

That’s because the Virgin Islands Police Department computer system has been hacked on a number of occasions over the past months, according to V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer Glen Dratte. Mr. Velinor corroborated Mr. Dratte’s statement, telling The Consortium during a phone interview Thursday that he was briefed on the hackings when he arrived in the territory.

“We’ve had a ransomware attack,” Mr. Velinor said, adding that the ransomware attack “really impacted us” on June 11. Ransomware is a type of malware from cryptovirology (a field that studies how to use cryptography to design powerful malicious software) that threatens to publish a victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.

According to a person with knowledge of the matter, the situation has been a nightmare for officers, many of whom cannot perform basic tasks on their computers. Mr. Velinor confirmed this to be true, telling The Consortium that many computers had to be wiped clean — losing all stored data — and “re-imaged” to allow officers to work.

2020 Campaign

ny times logoNew York Times, Tulsi Gabbard Thinks We’re Doomed, Or we will be if America doesn’t leave the rest of the world alone, Nellie Bowles, Aug. 2, 2019. That’s why the 38-year-old congresswoman from Hawaii is running for president.

tulsi gabbardTulsi Gabbard, right, is running for president of a country that she believes has wrought horror on the world, and she wants its citizens to remember that.

She is from Hawaii, and she spends each morning surfing. But that is not what she talks about in this unlikely campaign. She talks about the horror.

She lists countries: Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq. Failure after failure, she says. To drive the point home, she wants to meet on a Sioux tribe reservation in North Dakota, where, she explains, the United States government committed its original atrocity.

“These Indigenous people have been disrespected, mistreated with broken promises and desecrated lands,” Ms. Gabbard says.

U.S. House logoShe is with her husband, Abraham Williams, a 30-year-old cinematographer, and her sister, Vrindavan Gabbard, a former U.S. Marshal who is now volunteering for the campaign, lives with Ms. Gabbard in Washington, and got in some trouble after complaining about NBC’s Democratic debate moderators from Ms. Gabbard’s Twitter account.

Stephen Kinzer, a fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, is not deluding himself about Ms. Gabbard’s chances. “A lot of us in Tulsi world, we don’t have the fantasy that she’s going to pull ahead, but she serves a great purpose in this campaign because she is saying things that no one else is saying,” he said.

On Wednesday night, as criticism of Ms. Gabbard’s stance on Syria raged, Mr. Kinzer said on Twitter in defense of her that the White Helmets group of volunteer rescue workers in Syria is “an arm of the terror movement” there. “They are heroes to #ISIS but not to any humanitarian,” he wrote.

While she is the embodiment of this anti-interventionist message onstage, there is a much larger movement brewing. There is big money in peace. Two billionaire philanthropists from opposite ends of the political spectrum — George Soros and Charles Koch — came together this summer to fund the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank to argue against American intervention abroad.

Many of Ms. Gabbard’s advisers and allies celebrate this new peace movement, but go quiet when asked about specifics, like Ms. Gabbard’s trip to Syria.

SouthFront, Opinion: Propagandists Are Freaking Out Over Gabbard’s Destruction Of Harris, Caitlin Johnstone, Aug. 2, 2019. In the race to determine who will serve as Commander in Chief of the most powerful military force in the history of civilization, night two of the CNN Democratic presidential debates saw less than six minutes dedicated to discussing US military policy during the 180-minute event.

That’s six, as in the number before seven. Not sixty. Not sixteen. Six. From the moment Jake Tapper said “I want to turn to foreign policy” to the moment Don Lemon interrupted Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard just as she was preparing to correctly explain how President Trump is supporting Al-Qaeda in Idlib, approximately five minutes and fifty seconds had elapsed. The questions then turned toward the Mueller report and impeachment proceedings.

Night one of the CNN debates saw almost twice as much time, with a whole eleven minutes by my count dedicated to questions of war and peace for the leadership of the most warlike nation on the planet. This discrepancy could very well be due to the fact that night two was the slot allotted to Gabbard, whose campaign largely revolves around the platform of ending US warmongering.

CNN is a virulent establishment propaganda firm with an extensive history of promoting lies and brazen psyops in facilitation of US imperialism, so it would make sense that they would try to avoid a subject which would inevitably lead to unauthorized truth-telling on the matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Could Be an Electoral Time Bomb, Republican Strategists Fear, Lisa Friedman, Aug. 2, 2019. A growing number of conservative young voters identify climate change as a top priority. As the influence of younger Republicans rises, some strategists warn that the party stands to lose voters to Democrats.

As the influence of younger Republicans rises, some strategists warn that the party stands to lose voters to Democrats. When election time comes next year, Will Galloway, a student and Republican youth leader at Clemson University, will look for candidates who are strong on the mainstream conservative causes he cares about most, including gun rights and opposing abortion.

But there is another issue high on his list of urgent concerns that is not on his party’s agenda: climate change.

“Climate change isn’t going to discriminate between red states and blue states, so red-state actors have to start engaging on these issues,” said Mr. Galloway, 19, who is heading into his sophomore year and is chairman of the South Carolina Federation of College Republicans. “But we haven’t been. We’ve completely ceded them to the left.”

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, After Trump cites concerns about Amazon, Pentagon revisits plan for $10 billion cloud-computing contract, Aaron Gregg and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 2, 2019 (print ed.). A leading contender to win the bid was Amazon, a company that has been criticized many times by the president.

Capital One hack came at a bad time for Amazon’s most profitable business

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washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Will Hurd, lone black Republican in House, won’t run again, Robert Moore, Aug. 2, 2019 (print ed.). Hurd’s retirement is the third by a Texas Republican in the past week and the ninth by a party incumbent, dealing a blow to GOP efforts to regain control of the House in next year’s election.

With Hurd’s retirement, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) would be the lone black Republican in Congress. Hurd barely held the seat last year and Trump lost the congressional district, which covers more than 58,000 square miles between San Antonio and El Paso along the Mexican border, by four percentage points in 2016.

In an interview Thursday with The Post, Hurd (shown in a Facebook photo) criticized Trump’s racist tweets last month in which the president said four Democratic minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Three of the women are from the United States; a fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), is a Somali refu­gee who became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

Trump Watch

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s war against James Comey just backfired on him, Bill Palmer, Aug. 2, 2019. Trump's phony “Deep State” conspiracy theory has officially gone down the tubes. Trump has spent years insisting that former FBI Director James Comey (shown above in office) was somehow an illegal leaker who needed to be prosecuted for it. To that end, Trump supporters have insisted that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was going to put Comey and other intel officials in prison.

bill palmer report logo headerInstead, Horowitz has announced that there won’t be any criminal charges against James Comey. Moreover, the Washington Post says that according to people in the DOJ, it was “not a close call” – which is to say that Comey was very clearly not guilty of anything.

This was easy to see coming. First, outside of Trump’s lunatic fringe bubble, everyone understands that he didn’t do anything illegal by releasing certain obstruction of justice evidence against michael horwitz headshotTrump. Second, Horowitz, right, has already proven through his previous IG reports that he’s not willing to do Trump’s corrupt bidding.

So this announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. But Donald Trump has FBI logospent the past couple years insisting that Comey was part of a treasonous “Deep State” conspiracy to try to delegitimize Trump’s presidency.

Now Trump’s adversaries, including the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee, will be able to argue to undecided voters that even Trump’s own DOJ Inspector General agrees there was no conspiracy against Trump, and that the intel community was just doing its job when it came to investigating Trump’s crimes.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How the hell did Donald Trump know about Elijah Cummings’ burglary before everyone else? Bill Palmer, Aug. 2, 2019. When it was first reported yesterday that Congressman Elijah Cummings’ home in Baltimore had been burglarized, some major media reports created the appearance that the burglary had just happened. That made it sound like Donald Trump’s racist tweets about Cummings had led one of his supporters to commit the burglary. But now the timeline turns out to be different – and potentially even more disconcerting.

bill palmer report logo headerPolice in Baltimore are now saying that the burglary actually occurred at 3:40am on Saturday, July 27th. This has led some Donald Trump apologists to insist that Trump’s tweets couldn’t have prompted the burglary, because Trump didn’t start his tirade about Cummings until three and a half hours later, at 7:14am. And they’re right: short of a time machine, Trump’s tweets couldn’t have caused this. But here’s the thing.

elijah cummings head and shoulders oIt’s impossible to imagine that it’s a coincidence that Cummings’ home in Baltimore was burglarized, and 3.5 hours later, Trump randomly decided to begin ranting obsessively about the crime rate in Cummings’ hometown of Baltimore. Trump donald trump twitterhad to have already known about the burglary at the time he started tweeting. Yet the burglary didn’t become public knowledge until five days after it happened. So how could Trump have known about it 3.5 hours after it happened?

There are at least a few different potential explanations. Because Elijah Cummings is a Congressman, the local police could have immediately tipped off the FBI, who could have then told Donald Trump about it. But if so, then Trump took advantage of privileged information about a crime for political gain, which would be disgusting. There will also be those who ask if Trump knew about the burglary because he was behind it. There’s zero evidence of this, of course. But because Trump has been working from Richard Nixon’s playbook all along, and we know how much Nixon loved burglaries… it’s scary to even think about. The public deserves to know how Trump knew about the burglary before anyone else.

Epstein Update / Looming Issue

RT America, Jesse Ventura: “Powerful forces covered up the Epstein case the first time for a reason,” Jesse Ventura and Brigida Santos, Aug. 2, 2019 (28:13 min. video). Jesse Ventura and producer Brigida Santos discuss the recent arrest of alleged serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and reveal the names of the politicians and celebrities listed in Epstein’s black book. RT Host Rick Sanchez scolds prosecutors for referring to Epstein’s female child victims “prostitutes.”

​Race Oppression In U.S. Historyelaine arkansas army bringing farmers to town arkansas times

U.S. Army escorting black farmers back to Elaine, Arkansas (Photo via Arkanas Times)

Arkansas Times, To Those Known and Unknown: The Elaine Massacre Memorial, Leslie Newell Peacock, Aug. 2, 2019. The Elaine Memorial pays tribute to the hundreds who died on the killing fields of Phillips County.

September 2019 will be the 100th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Elaine Massacre in Eastern Arkansas’s Phillips County. A century ago, white posses and U.S. soldiers shot and killed what may have been hundreds of African Americans, most of them tenant farmers, over a period of four days. The black farmers’ crime: They were unionizing to obtain fair prices for their cotton, and in some cases trying to buy their own farms. Some were just returned veterans of World War I and expected to be treated equitably and with respect after combat abroad.

It’s a complicated story from a time when white supremacy was the rule and the fear of communism and hatred of unions was pervasive. During the Red Summer of 1919, deadly clashes between racist white mobs and blacks, including veterans, erupted all over the nation. It’s a story that’s been told in rich detail in books by Little Rock lawyer Grif Stockley and American journalist Robert Whitaker. Here’s a bare-bones telling of the event:

Members of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union and others had been talking with a white Little Rock lawyer who had an office in Helena about suing the landowners for whom they planted. Cotton prices were at an all-time high, but black farmers were making pennies on the dollar from Arkansas landlords and could not get ahead. White eavesdroppers and a black spy hired by fearful residents of Helena claimed in reports to the elite of that city that there would be an uprising. Whites believed union organizers were stirring the tenant farmers to kill their landlords.

On the evening of Sept. 30, 1919, black families gathered in a church at Hoop Spur, a southern Phillips County community just north of Elaine, along the Missouri Pacific Railroad line, to talk about taking legal action. A deputy sheriff from Helena, a Missouri Pacific agent and a black prisoner drove to the church, stopped and turned out their lights. Someone opened the car door; armed black guards around the church approached. Shots rang out. It’s unknown who fired first; each side blamed the other. The deputy sheriff was killed. Blacks fled the shooting, some jumping out of the church windows with children. By the light of morning, a posse sent by the sheriff could see the church and a nearby shed had been shot at, though they would later lie about that (and even later admit to the lie).

Over the next four days, whites from Helena and south Phillips County, plus posses from Mississippi who crossed the river to join in the carnage, tracked blacks down and shot them. They shot men, women and children, some in front of their homes, some as they hid in the woods and canebrakes, some as they were picking cotton. They were seen taking ears and other trophies from the bodies. Helena’s leaders asked for help; Gov. Charles Brough responded by sending 500 soldiers from Camp Pike to Elaine. Some Army units were armed with machine guns, which, according to several accounts, they turned on blacks emerging from their hiding places thinking they were saved. (Soldiers in some units, on the other hand, tended the bullet wounds of the black farmers.)

Five white men were fatally shot — one almost certainly by friendly fire, and possibly a second as well. Witnesses, black and white, interviewed after the event, estimated hundreds of blacks were killed between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4, one black ex-soldier wrote, “like they wont nothen but dogs.” An Arkansas Gazette reporter, in a book published in 1925, put the total deaths at 856, though he did not provide a source for the figure. Whitaker has estimated the number at more than 230, based on witness accounts. Eighty or more other blacks, including women, were jailed.

Twelve black men — union members — were convicted of first-degree murder at farcical trials and sentenced to die. Blacks who had been arrested were whipped and tortured by electric shock to give false testimony against the 12 at the trials. More than 80 men were convicted of lesser crimes, including, ironically, night-riding, the way the Ku Klux Klan exacted justice.
Photo of Scipio Africanus JonesCourtesy the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
SIX OF THE 12: Attorney Scipio Africanus Jones stands with defendants (back row) Ed Hicks, Frank Hicks, Frank Moore, (seated) J.C. Knox, Ed Coleman and Paul Hall.

Little Rock lawyer Scipio Africanus Jones — who learned the law on his own because the University of Arkansas would not admit him — won the men their freedom after nearly six years of legal and political machinations. He worked with several white attorneys; the NAACP insisted on white lawyers and, ironically, did not at first trust the talents of Jones.

Aug. 1

democrats july30 31 2019 lineups Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats pull no punches on second night of debate, Matt Viser, Toluse Olorunnipa and Amy B Wang, Aug. 1, 2019. Former vice president Joe Biden, attempting to regain his footing by adopting a more aggressive and combative posture during a Democratic presidential debate here Wednesday night, faced relentless attacks on his decades-long Senate record on race and criminal justice, immigration and health care, and his commitment to women’s rights.

The exchange showcased many of the deep divides within the party that are taking on greater urgency as the candidates strive to make gains before the field narrows.

USA Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is again the most-searched candidate on Google during Democratic debate, William Cummings, Aug. 1, 2019. Tulsi Gabbard was the most searched candidate on Google after her night on the Democratic debate stage in Miami last month, and she took that honor again after the primary debate in Detroit on Wednesday.

tulsi gabbardBefore Wednesday night's showdown between 10 of the 25 Democrats running for president, former Vice President Joe Biden was the most searched candidate in all but seven states. Gabbard, right, was next, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

But during the debate, the congresswoman from Hawaii stood alone as the most Googled candidate in all 50 states.

Gabbard's campaign took note of the interest shown in her on Google. "Following the last two debates, Tulsi has spiked to #1 in Google Trends, showing America is hungry for her message of ending wasteful wars and the nuclear arms race," read a tweet from her Twitter account. Being the most searched candidate during the firs round of the debate in Miami didn't translate into a boost in the polls for Gabbard. Most polls had her hovering around 1% heading into that debate and her current polling average, according to RealClearPolitics, stands at an even 1%.

On July 25, Gabbard's campaign announced it was suing Google, claiming "serious and continuing violations of Tulsi’s right to free speech" because of Google's suspension of the Gabbard campaign's advertising account during that first debate.


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) speaks to CNN's Anderson Cooper about the second night of the Democratic primary debate.

CNN via YouTube, Watch Tulsi Gabbard's interview with Anderson Cooper, Anderson Cooper interviews presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, Aug. 1, 2019. (10:48 min video). (5.5k likes, 369,000 views as of Aug. 3).

Trump Impeachment

ny times logoNew York Times, Support for Impeachment Inquiry Grows in the House, Nicholas Fandos, Aug. 1, 2019. The House’s summer break was expected to lower the temperature around the prospect of a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. But the trickle of Democrats coming out in favor of the inquiry is threatening to turn into a flood, most likely raising pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

democratic donkey logoOn Monday, it was a soft-spoken senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri. On Tuesday, the careful chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot L. Engel of New York, threw in his support. So did Jennifer Wexton, a freshman Democrat who flipped a Virginia district long held by Republicans, and Jason Crow, an Iraq war veteran in another newly Democratic House seat in Colorado.

On Wednesday, the influential chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Nita M. Lowey, added her voice.

The House’s departure last Friday for a six-week summer break was expected to lower the temperature around the prospect of a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. An unexpected declaration by the House Judiciary Committee in court papers on Friday that an impeachment investigation was effectively already underway might well have cooled matters further.

But the trickle of Democrats coming out in favor of opening a full impeachment inquiry is threatening to turn into a flood, most likely raising pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take precisely the vote she has tried to avoid all year. This week, more than a half-dozen Democrats have announced their support for an inquiry, and with at least 116 declared supporters, the backers of an impeachment inquiry are more than halfway to the 218 votes they need in the House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who supports an impeachment inquiry? Here’s a full list, Alicia Parlapiano, Jason Kao, Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson, Aug. 1, 2019.

  • 116 Representatives support an impeachment inquiry
  • 96 No, not now, or undecided
  • 221 Awaiting response

Other 2020 U.S. Politics

marianne williamson screen shot 2019 07 31 CustomWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Williamson's Middle East woo matches her other kooky ideas, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 1, 2019 (subscription required). Spiritual guru and marketer of woo self-help books Marianne Williamson is serving as the same sort of political spoiler to harm the Democrats in the 2020 election as Green Party candidate Jill Stein acted in the 2016 race.

Both Williamson (shown in a screenshot from the debate) and Stein are right out of the weirdo and offbeat central casting department in what has become reality television presidential politics.

Los Angeles Times, Opinion: Stop the Marianne Williamson bandwagon right now. Stop it, Brian Boyle, Aug. 1, 2019. Marianne Williamson does politics the same way as President Donald Trump, the writer argues, and that’s dangerous.

marianne williamson vox com june28 2019 dcma

A month ago, after the first round of Democratic primary debates (shown above), I pleaded with the Democratic National Convention to declutter the stage and laser in on the real contenders. After the second round of debates, I’m ready to admit I may have been wrong, and bringing more voices to the event is valuable to viewers and voters.

Stirring the pot, generally speaking, is good. But there is one clear exception: celebrity whisperer Marianne Williamson (who, I feel obligated to mention as early as possible, has a history of anti-science, anti-vaccination rhetoric that, alone, should be immediately disqualifying).

Tuesday night, nerds like me across the internet logged onto Twitter in the wake of the debate in search of a dialogue between journalists, pundits and scholars on what policies America needs, wants and can actually politically obtain — and whether any of those overlap.

But we’re living in a post-2016 world, so of course that was nowhere to be found.

Google trends show Williamson (who, I again feel obligated to note, believes AIDS and cancer are the “physical manifestation of a psychic scream”) appeared in the most searches after the debate in all but one of the 50 states (that’d be Montana, whose people Googled their own governor, Steve Bullock, as he made his first appearance on a presidential debate stage).

Williamson also owned Twitter. Her proclamations of love and metaphysical justice sparked many a meme.

Look, like most 22-year-olds, the line between genuine appreciation and ironic enjoyment blurred in my head long ago. And I hate to crash the tarot card-reading party. But this has to stop. Now.

Because we’ve seen this before. Give Williamson enough shine as a “joke” candidate and soon enough voters will start to buy in.

No, Williamson’s core beliefs aren’t a fraction as malignant as Donald Trump’s. And no, she isn’t a one-to-one mirror image. But she sees politics the same way, and that makes her dangerous.

Like Trump, she’s uncovered a disaffected corner of the party. The kind that doesn’t vote; the kind that’s inspired more by an appeal to ill-defined existential emotions than effective policymaking. Like Trump, she projects a coming American apocalypse, tapping into liberal nightmares rather than conservative ones. Like Trump, she then presents herself and her own spiritual gut instinct as the sole (and soulful) path to salvation.

Crime, Terror Claim

Yahoo News, FBI document warns conspiracy theories are a new domestic terrorism threat, Jana Winter, Aug. 1, 2019. The FBI for the first time has identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat, according to a previously unpublicized document obtained by Yahoo News.

FBI logoThe FBI intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it is the first such report to do so. It lists a number of arrests, including some that haven’t been publicized, related to violent incidents motivated by fringe beliefs.

The document specifically mentions QAnon, a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump, and Pizzagate, the theory that a pedophile ring including Clinton associates was being run out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant (which didn’t actually have a basement).

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. It also goes on to say the FBI believes conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Final Edition: How One Small-Town Paper Said Goodbye, Richard Fausset, Photographs and Video by Tim Gruber
Aug. 1, 2019. With the distribution of its final issue on May 7, The Warroad Pioneer, which printed about 1,100 copies per week, joined roughly 2,000 newspapers that have closed in the United States over the last 15 years, according to a study by University of North Carolina researchers soberly titled “The Expanding News Desert.”

Today in many American communities, the researchers noted, “there is simply not enough digital or print revenue to pay for the public service journalism that local newspapers have historically provided.”

In Warroad, The Pioneer was full of soft-focus features on residents, reprinted news releases, photos of fishermen with their outsize catches, and news of awards won by children and Shriners. There were the occasional stories, too, about city officials, the school board and local sports.

This, then, was what the desert might look like: No hometown paper to print the obituaries from the Helgeson Funeral Home. No place to chronicle the exploits of the beloved high school hockey teams. No historical record for the little town museum, which had carefully kept the newspaper in boxes going back to 1897.

And what about the next government scandal, the next school funding crisis? Who would be there? Who would tell?

Others imagined the news moving from person to person, unedited and unchecked, on Facebook or other social media networks. “A lot of it is going to be word of mouth through kaffeeklatsches,” said Todd Miller, 57, a former member of the county commission. “And who knows what variant of BS gets passed around there.”

Newspaper Economics

ny times logoNew York Times, A Paradox at the Heart of the Newspaper Crisis, Marc Tracy, Aug. 1, 2019. Hedge funds have found that they are able to wring profits out of an ailing product: the print newspaper. But for how long?Today, the business could hardly be more dismal. Phil Luciano, a columnist at The Peoria Journal Star, got a story tip recently about Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company that was based in Peoria, Ill., for 90 years before a recent relocation to Cook County.

The tip seemed promising enough. But as one of only seven full-time reporters at the paper, he felt stretched too thin to do much about it.

“Who’s our Caterpillar reporter?” Mr. Luciano asked. “We don’t have one right now.”

In recent years, The Journal Star has been hit with the kind of cutbacks that have become common for newspapers nationwide as they steer a bumpy course toward a digitally focused future. The newsroom had more than 80 guild employees in the 1990s, and now has about a dozen. The Journal Star is still the largest paper in downstate Illinois. But after covering more than 23 counties in its heyday, it now limits itself to three: Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford. And Woodford’s pretty small,” Mr. Luciano said.

The Peoria daily is representative of the newspaper industry as a whole in two other respects. It is owned by a company controlled by a hedge fund — GateHouse Media, which owns more papers than any other company, according to a University of North Carolina study. And even in its reduced state, the paper is profitable.

Around one in four papers in the country, most of them weeklies, have been shut down since 2004, the U.N.C. study found. In that same time span, roughly half of all newspaper jobs have been eliminated as the cumulative weekday circulation of print papers has fallen to 73 million from 122 million.

Epstein Scandal

polly twitterAmazing Polly, Opinion: Epstein Enemy Emerges from the Swamp? Polly (shown on Twitter photo, last name withheld), Aug. 1, 2019. (33:32 min. video). You have to bear with me as I set the stage in this video about a person who has come out of the shadows recently and who ran in the same circles as Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Conrad Black was a powerful media mogul -- could he be a key to untangling the web of corruption? Find out why I think so.


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