December 2015 News Reports

 
 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2015 news and views

 

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Dec. 31

Washington Times, Putin’s new defense strategy declares NATO a threat, L. Todd Wood, Dec. 31, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document this week which updates Russia’s national security Vladimir Putinposture and declares the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a threat to Russia’s national security. The document states that NATO’s expansion and the approach of Russia’s borders is justification for this new defense strategy, according the Russian state news agency, TASS. “The buildup of the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and vesting it with global functions implemented in violations of norms of international law, boosting military activity of the bloc’s countries, further expansion of the alliance, the approach of its military infrastructure to Russian borders create a threat to the national security,” the document says.

Ben CarsonWashington Post, Ben Carson’s top staffers resign in a delayed campaign shake-up, Robert Costa and David Weigel, Dec. 31, 2015. Several of the GOP presidential candidate's top advisers, including campaign manager Barry Bennett, quit following an internal power struggle, a sharp decline in the polls and a week of confusion about who would remain on the former neurosurgeon's presidential campaign team.

The Hill, Clinton emails: Billionaire Soros said he regretted backing Obama, Kristina Wong, Dec. 31, 2015. George Soros, a billionaire Democratic donor, told a close Hillary Clinton ally that he regretted supporting President Obama over her in the 2008 Democratic primary, according to an email released Thursday by the State Department. Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden said in a May 2012 email to Clinton that Soros made the admission to her during a dinner.

"I told him I worked for you in the primaries and he said he's been impressed that he can always call/meet with you on an issue of policy and said he hasn't met with the President ever (though I thought he had)," Tanden wrote. "He then said he regretted his decision in the primary — he likes to admit mistakes when he makes them and that was one of them," she added.

"He then extolled his work with you from your time as First Lady on. You probably have heard this all before but on the off chance you haven't, I thought I should let you know. Thanks again for doing the video!" she wrote. An August 2012 article in The New Yorker said Soros gave $5 million to help elect Obama in 2008, and that he later felt snubbed by the president.

"Confidants say that, although he still supports Obama, Soros has been disappointed by him, both politically and personally," the article said. "When Soros wanted to meet with Obama in Washington to discuss global economic problems, Obama’s staff failed to respond."

"Eventually, they arranged not a White House interview but, rather, a low-profile, private meeting in New York, when the President was in town for other business. Soros found this back-door treatment confounding," the article said. A Soros confident told the New Yorker: "They pissed on him... He didn’t want a f-cking thing! He didn’t want a state dinner, or a White House party — he just wanted to be taken seriously.”

CBS News, Trump mocks State Department's 2015 boast of peace in Syria, Reena Flores, Dec. 31, 2015. When State Department spokesperson John Kirby listed "bringing peace, security to Syria" as one of the administration's pivotal foreign policy moments of the year, it drew widespread criticism -- from conservative commentators, mainstream media outlets, and now Donald Trump. Right-leaning website RedState deemed the post a "blatant" lie. Of the headline, Foreign Policy magazine derided it as "hard to argue that the United States brought any significant 'peace' or 'security' to the Syrian people."

The State Department later defended Kirby. "The operative word there is bringing, not brought, so we're bringing peace and security to Syria," deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Monday.

But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wasn't going to let the State Department get off easily for their characterization. At a rally in South Carolina, Trump lambasted the "mistake" in front of a large audience. He said: "Can you believe 'bringing peace to Syria?' The world is blowing up. The migration from Syria. They say one of their achievements for the year is bringing peace to Syria and the whole world is talking about it."

Washington Post, Why prosecutors are charging Cosby 12 years later, and why other cases quietly die, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 31, 2015. At least 50 other women have made similar accusations against the comedy legend, but most will never see their cases go to court, because statutes of limitations for sex crimes vary widely across the nation. As of 2014, 34 states and the District of Columbia had statutes of limitations on filing sexual assault charges, ranging from three years to three decades, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. But since then, there has been a growing effort to end -- or at least lengthen -- the limits on prosecuting sex crimes across the country.

Washington Post, Use of psychologists at Guantanamo Bay prison reduced with general’s order, Dan Lamothe, Dec. 31, 2015. The decision was made by Gen. John F. Kelly, the outgoing commander at U.S. Southern Command.

Washington Post, The Smithsonian’s Cosby problem only gets worse, Philip Kennicott, Dec. 31, 2015. “When we accepted the gift and loan, I was unaware of the allegations about David Skorton Cornell PhotoBill Cosby,” said National Museum of African Art Director Johnnetta Cole, last August in a statement published on the website The Root. “Had I known, I would not have moved forward with this particular exhibition.” She was defending the museum’s Cosby art exhibition, “Conversations,” which paired works from the Cosby family collection with African art from the museum’s holdings. The show opened in November 2014, and is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 24.

The exhibit opened 10 years after Cosby allegedly used wine and drugs to incapacitate a young woman who believed the entertainer was a trustworthy mentor, as detailed yesterday at his arraignment in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. A month before the exhibition opened, a prominent stand-up comic reignited long-simmering rumors about Cosby’s sexual behavior in a video that went viral.

In September, after dozens of women had come forward to describe similar encounters with Cosby, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton (shown at right) defended keeping the exhibition open on free-speech grounds: “I believe taking down an exhibition will tarnish our reputation among museum professionals and others,” he said. “Creative activity of any kind can generate controversy. We will from time to time get beat up about some of these things.”

It was a mistake to mount “Conversations” in the first place, putting the institution in the business of promoting the commercial value of Cosby’s art and tying them to a man who already had a seriously damaged reputation years ago, no matter what Cole claimed in August. As the Smithsonian contemplates the dilemma yet again, it can’t be stressed strongly enough: This was a bad show from the start. It was bad on ethical grounds (because it could potentially elevate the value of an art collection owned by a close friend of the museum’s director), and it was bad on curatorial grounds.

Washington Post, Roberts urges lawyers, judges to help improve ‘contentious’ federal system, Robert Barnes, Dec. 31, 2015. The Supreme Court faces a controversial election-year docket John Robertsthat features battles over abortion and the Affordable Care Act. But in Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s annual report, he focused on an entirely different matter.

Washington Post, FAA tells local drone and model aircraft clubs to cease and desist, Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 31, 2015. Hobbyists have been told that it’s illegal to fly within 30 miles of Reagan National, but they hope to work out a deal.

AP via Daily Mail, Female WW II pilots are BARRED from Arlington National Cemetery - despite government permission for them to be buried there, Staff report, Dec. 31, 2015. Since 1977, federal law has granted women soldiers as veterans and since 2002, they have been eligible to have their ashes placed at Arlington. Earlier this year, then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh reversed course and ruled Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) ineligible. Terry Harmon, 69, of Silver Spring, Maryland, is fighting have her mother Elaine Harmon's ashed buried at Arlington.

Dec. 30

OpEdNews, Republican and Democrat Agree on This Election Issue? And How! Joan Brunwasser (shown at left), Dec. 30, 2015. My guest today is Virginia Martin, Democratic election commissioner of Columbia County, New Joan BrunwasserYork.

Joan Brunwasser: Your county is unique in the state of New York in the way that its votes are counted. Can you tell us about that, please?

Virginia Martin New YorkVirginia Martin (shown at right):  Yes, in Columbia County, my Republican counterpart, Jason Nastke, and I have a standing agreement that, going into every election, and for every contested race, we will hand count 100% of the votes cast on our voting machines. New York State Election Law only requires each county to count all the votes on 3% of the voting machines that were deployed, but we don't feel that that's an adequate audit, and so we do more.

In reality, though, it's never really 100% of all the votes cast, because, after the unofficial voting-machine results are in on election night, there are some races that we agree just don't warrant more than the 3% NYS audit. The commissioner on the losing side of a race that was anticipated to be fairly lopsided will, at her or his discretion, ask the candidate and the party if they would agree to forego the 100% audit. They always have, with the result that there are quite a few races that we don't do the 100% hand-count on, because there also are generally a number of races with only one candidate. Interestingly, for this election the machine that we randomly drew for the 3% NYS audit is a single-district machine in a town where there are no contested local races.

People, Arrest Warrant Issued for Bill Cosby for Alleged January 2004 Sexual Assault of Andrea Constand, Nicole Weisensee Egan, Dec. 30, 2015. An arrest warrant has been issued for entertainer Bill Cosby for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple employee Andrea Constand at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania mansion in January 2004, sources tell People Magazine. Constand was Bill Cosbynot available for comment but one of her attorneys expressed gratitude toward the prosecutor.

"Obviously we appreciate the expression of confidence in her," says Dolores Troiani of her client, Constand, 42, who is now a massage therapist in Ontario, Canada. "We'll have to see what happens. We hope justice will be done. We will cooperate fully." Cosby has previously said what happened between him and Constand was consensual, but in new court filings last summer Constand said she was in a relationship with a woman at the time. She also called Cosby a "narcissist" who missed cues that she's gay. The statute of limitations to charge Cosby runs out in January.

So far, more than 50 women have accused the entertainer of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. (Cosby has vehemently denied all of the allegations). The warrant comes just two weeks after Cosby filed defamation lawsuits against several of those accusers, who have filed defamation lawsuits of their own against him.

Last summer, outgoing Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman quietly reopened Constand's case, sending detectives to Canada to interview Constand once again while Kevin Steele, her first assistant, oversaw the investigation. (Steele is now the Montgomery County District Attorney-Elect.)

Washington Post, How Rubio helped his ex-con brother-in-law acquire a real estate license, Scott Higham and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Dec. 31, 2015. While a powerful state lawmaker, Rubio urged officials to grant Marco Rubio officialhis brother-in-law a real estate license. When Marco Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.

OpEdNews, America Is Being Destroyed By Problems That Are Unaddressed, Paul Craig Roberts (shown at right), Dec. 30, 2015. None of these serious problems will be addressed by the presidential candidates, and no party’s Paul Craig Robertsplatform will consist of a rescue plan for America. Unbridled greed, short-term in nature, will continue to drive America into the ground.

Truthout, How False Stories of Iran Arming the Houthis Were Used to Justify War in Yemen, Gareth Porter, Dec. 31, 2015. Peace talks between the Saudi-supported government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels ended in late December without any agreement to end the bombing campaign started by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies with US support last March. The rationale for the Saudi-led war on Houthis in Yemen has been that the Houthis are merely proxies of Iran, and the main alleged evidence for that conclusion is that Iran has been arming the Houthis for years.

 But an investigation of the two main allegations of such arms shipments made by the Yemeni government and cited by the expert panel shows that they were both crudely constructed ruses.

Flag of TurkeyTelesur, Iraq Vows Military Action Against Turkey If Troops Not Removed, Staff report, Dec. 30, 2015. Turkey says the confrontation over its troops deployment in Iraq was a "miscommunication." The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the government is exhausting all diplomatic avenues with Turkey but would use military force if needed to protect sovereignty. The standoff between the two countries started early December when the Turkish army deployed 150 troops in the Bashiqa military base in Nineveh province in north of Iraq in order to train Kurdish and Sunni anti-Islamic State group fighters. 

Dec. 29

Nuclear Explosion at Nevada test site in 1953 (U.S. government photo)

A nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in 1953, photo courtesy the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Washington Post, Declassified: How the Pentagon planned to nuke the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Dec. 29, 2015. In the event of a nuclear war, the Pentagon in 1956 penned a report that listed 1,200 cities and 1,100 airfields spread across eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China that were prioritized for various levels of destruction, should the unthinkable happen.

The goals were twofold: deny the former Communist Bloc’s ability to field an effective air force and then destroy its ability to wage a protracted war. The details of the Pentagon’s plans were recently revealed in the 800-page Strategic Air Command Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959, “the most comprehensive and detailed list of nuclear targets and target systems that has ever been declassified,” according to the National Security Archive, an organization run by George Washington University that published it last week.

See also, Strategic Culture Foundation, America Was Prepared to Annihilate Prague, Warsaw, Other Capitals, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 27, 2015.

Wall Street Journal, U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress, Adam Entous and Danny Yadron, Dec. 29, 2015. NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. Benjamin Netanyahu smile Twitterlawmakers. President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs. But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Irsaeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.”

Zero Hedge, The Dark Side Of A Record $5 Trillion In Mergers: Hundreds Of Thousands Of Imminent Layoffs, Tyler Durden, Dec. 29, 2015. Yesterday afternoon, Dealogic announced the for the first time in history, global announced M&A volume in 2015 would surpass $5 trillion. This record eclipses by 9% the previous all time high of $4.6 trillion set during the previous market bubble year of 2007. The report adds that there were 10 $50 billion M&A transactions announced in 2015 worth a combined $798.9bn.

The not so immediate result has been a silent layoff wave (focused initially in the energy sector) as increasingly more well-paying careers are lost and replaced with minimum wage food service and retail, often times part-time, jobs.

However, none of that accounts for the layoff shock that is about to be unleashed as hundreds of billions of M&A deals go from announced to closed over the coming months, as the "pro-forma"management (and shareholders) demand to see cost-savings and bottom line results. Where are "results" going to come from? Why "synergies" of course, Wall Street's favorite word for mass layoffs.

Naji Jerf

Naji Jerf, Murdered Journalist In Turkey

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Annual round-up: 110 journalists killed in 2015, Staff report, Dec. 29, 2015. At least 67 killed while reporting or because of their work; RSF condemns failure to protect journalists, calls for “response to match the emergency.” A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015, according to the round-up published today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which is in a position to say that 67 of them were targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.

These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005. It has not been possible to clearly establish the circumstances or motives of this year’s 43 other deaths of journalists. Twenty-seven citizen-journalists and seven media workers were also killed in 2015.

This disturbing situation is largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists and is indicative of the failure of the initiatives so far taken to protect media personnel.

A European country, France, was one of the deadliest countries for journalists in 2015. It ranked third, after Syria and Iraq. “The creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is absolutely essential,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Non-state groups perpetrate targeted atrocities while too many governments do not comply with their obligations under international law. The 110 journalists killed this year need a response that matches the emergency. A special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists must be appointed without delay.”

RT, Seymour Hersh on conflicting interests in Syria, Staff report, Dec. 29, 2015 (14 min. video). Journalist Seymour Hersh's new report on contradictions between President Obama and the US military regarding rebels in Syria was a bombshell. Hersh spoke with RT about the US military's view of Syria's Bashar Assad and Obama's relationship with Turkey. Writing for the London Review of Books, Hersh reported that, in a classified document from Summer 2013, the highest echelons of the US military establishment outlined their opposition to the Obama administration’s strategy of arming so-called "moderate" rebels to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. From 2013 to September 2015, in an effort to truly counter extremists in Syria, US military leaders fed US intelligence to Russia, Germany, and Israel, which then sent it to Assad, he reported.

The removal of Assad from power would be a gift to fundamentalist extremists, the military report said, as US defense officials compared a potential Assad ouster to ill-advised US eliminations of secular leaders Moammar Gaddaffi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Turkey – which the Obama administration has held close as an ally – is "a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy," Hersh wrote of the 2013 military report.

Business Insider, Turkey may finally be 'accepting the inevitable' in Syria, Natasha Bertrand, Dec. 29, 2015. A Kurdish militia with ties to an organization waging an insurgency in Turkey's southeast region violated Turkey's "red line" in Syria over the weekend by crossing the Euphrates River during an anti-ISIS operation. The operation to take back Tishrin Dam from ISIS was staged by the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG — the military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

It served as a huge blow to ISIS. But ISIS was not the only loser. The operation was also a major affront to Turkey, which declared the Euphrates a "red line" for Kurdish territorial expansion over the summer. Indeed, Turkey struck the YPG twice in October after it defied Ankara's warning not to cross the river. So far, however, the Turks' response to the weekend incident has been relatively muted.

David Swanson.org, Bern the Feel, David Swanson, Dec. 29, 2015. I remain convinced that the media is keeping Sanders and Trump around for ratings and will destroy them as soon as it chooses, and never chooses to do such a thing as early as the December of the year before the election. Sanders is doing remarkably well, but when people's televisions tell them they must vote against him, will they disobey? The U.S. public has become intensely obedient.

Washington Post, Obama’s skin looks a little different in these GOP campaign ads, Max Ehrenfreund, Dec. 29, 2015. A new study shows that negative ads targeting President Obama in 2008 depicted him with very dark skin, and that these images would have appealed to some viewers’ racial biases. The finding reinforces charges that some Republican politicians seek to win votes by implying support for racist views and ethnic hierarchies, without voicing those prejudices explicitly. The purported tactic is often called “dog-whistle politics” — just as only canines can hear a dog whistle, only prejudiced voters are aware of the racist connotations of a politician’s statement, according to the theory.

A study published online this month in Public Opinion Quarterly provides new evidence that one GOP campaign — intentionally or not — has aired advertisements that exacerbate viewers’ racial biases. Analyzing 126 advertisements from the presidential campaign in 2008, the authors first digitally measured the darkness of the two nominees’ skin in each spot, then sorted the ads into categories based on themes. President Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), looked very different in various advertisements depending on how the footage was edited and produced. When McCain's campaign aired spots that connected Obama with alleged criminal activity by liberal groups, the producers almost always used images that made Obama's skin appear very dark.

Rebekeh Roth Show

Natural News, Former TalkNetwork.com host Rebekah Roth exposed as possible government plant sent to infiltrate 'truth movement', J.D. Heyes, Dec. 29, 2015. Regular listeners of TalkNetwork.com may remember host Rebekah Roth. She was recently dropped from the network after it became apparent that, frankly, she was not who she said she was and, in fact, may even have been an agent provocateur whose mission is to disrupt and discredit the "truth movement."

"Although we work hard to protect the identities of hosts on TalkNetwork, when we attempted to communicate with Rebekah Roth about claims that her entire back story was fraudulent and her name wasn't real, she became belligerent and attacked me for even asking for clarification," said Natural News editor Mike Adams, the Heath Ranger and co-founder of TalkNetwork.com, in a statement.

"Observing her behavior, we came to find that she's an expert in infiltration and provocateur-type operations, getting groups of people to turn on each other and causing chaos inside the truth movement," Adams continued. "She's done it with other networks before, and she'll no doubt try to repeat the same scheme somewhere else in the alternative media."

See also: Pete Santilli Show, Rebekah Roth's Methodical Deceit: A Real Investigation, Kurt Haskell, Dec. 23, 2015 (video). Pete Santilli interviews researcher Kurt Haskell, host of "Real Investigations" - In this segment Kurt Haskell methodically exposes the mystery of just who exactly Rebekah Roth is and more importantly who Rebekah Roth is not.

Dec. 28

RT, Syrian journalist exposing ISIS Aleppo atrocities assassinated in Turkey, Daniel Hawkins and Ilya Petrenko, Dec. 28, 2015. A prominent Syrian journalist and filmmaker who produced anti-Islamic State documentaries, was gunned down by unknown assailants in broad daylight in Gaziantep, Turkey. The death of Naji Herf is the third assassination of a journalist in the country over the last three months.

Sputnik via RT, Captured ISIS fighter says 'trained in Turkey,' Staff report, Dec. 28, 2015 (with video). Turkey is training Islamic State terrorists in a camp disguised as a training ground for the Free Syrian Army, a 20-year-old jihadist captured by the Kurdish YPG told Sputnik. The prisoner said Ankara’s help to the “moderate” Syrian opposition is not as innocent as portrayed. Captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters in Northern Syria in November, Abdurrahman Abdulhadi, a Syrian national-turned Daesh (Islamic State) fighter, says he was trained in Turkey before receiving his first assignment with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“In August 2014, I was training in the Turkish town of Adana with one of ISIL’s Emirs,” Abdulhadi said, adding his month-long training was completed with 60 other fighters in a camp “not far from the airport.”

The captured IS soldier said military training was conducted by two officers and one of them only “spoke Turkish, so another one had to translate for him.” “Once a week we had shooting classes where we were taught to use Kalashnikovs, machine guns and other arms,” the 20 year-old said. “We were trained in Turkey because ISIL's command thought it was safer here than in Syria because of the bombardments there.”

While the camp was officially declared to be one of the training grounds for the Free Syrian Army, the YPG prisoner says, “all sixty of those who were there were ISIL members.” Washington Post, Ben Carson on the brink: ‘A process like this is pretty brutal,’ Steven Ginsberg and Robert Costa, Dec. 28, 2-015. Two days before Christmas, with his presidential campaign fading fast, Ben Ben CarsonCarson sought to take control at his manse in the countryside west of Baltimore. Unless something in his campaign changed fast, Carson was in danger of going the way of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain — fad candidates who wilted before a single vote had been cast. This was the day he had marked to stop the fade.

Institute for Political Economy, Why WW III Is On The Horizon, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 28, 2015. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave birth to a dangerous American ideology called neoconservativism. The Washington Post neoconservative journalist Charles Krauthammer summed up the “new reality” as follows: “We have overwhelming global power. We are history’s designated custodians of the international system."

The events of September 11, 2001, are regarded by informed people as “the new Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives said was necessary in order to begin their wars of conquest in the Middle East. Since 9/11 Washington has destroyed in whole or part eight countries and now confronts Russia both in Syria and Ukraine. Russia cannot allow a jihadist caliphate to be established in an area comprising Syria/Iraq because it would be a base for exporting destabilization into Muslim parts of the Russian Federation.

The neoconservatives tell President Obama to keep the pressure on Russia and Russia will give in. However, Putin has made it clear that Russia will not give in. The European governments, especially Germany and the UK, are complicit in the move toward nuclear war. These two American vassal states enable Washington’s reckless aggression toward Russia by repeating Washington’s propaganda and supporting Washington’s sanctions and interventions against other countries.

AP via New York Times, Wounded Fighters, Civilians Evacuated From Syria, Albert Aji and Suzan Fraser, Dec. 28, 2015. Hundreds of people from opposite sides in Syria's civil war were evacuated from contested areas on Monday under a U.N.-backed truce, with one group headed to Turkey and another en route to areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad. One group, with more than 100 rebels and family members, crossed from Syria into Lebanon in buses and ambulances, and then took off from Beirut airport for Turkey, a main ally of fighters battling to overthrow Assad. The other group, residents of two insurgent-besieged Shiite villages in northern Syria, was evacuated first to Turkey in similar vehicles before departing for Beirut from Hatay airport. The truce deal reached in September, which provides for the transfer of thousands of Shiite and Sunni civilians and fighters, is one of a number of ground-level deals to end fighting in parts of Syria. Earlier this month, scores of fighters and their families began leaving a rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs after several years of combat.

Huffington Post, The Cost of Turkey's Self-Interest, Khairuldeen Al Makhzoomi, Dec. 28, 2015. Khairuldeen Al Makhzoomi is a researcher at the Near Eastern Department of UC Berkeley. Turkey's assistance to the Islamic State goes beyond providing open borders for ISIS militants. By the end of 2015, Turkey is expected to host as many as nearly 2 million Syrian refugees. Recently, Turkey was accused of being one of the main sources of financial backing for the Islamic State, as well as of providing the majority of the group's training and weaponry. The Islamic State, for its part, has been making a profit smuggling oil across the border into Turkey. ISIS makes between $1-2 million a day from oil revenues, and Reyhanli, one border village, made a profit of more than $800 million in oil sales over the course of 16 months. Residents near the Syrian border reported witnessing Turkish ambulances going into combat zones during clashes between Kurdish militias and the Islamic State. These ambulances would evacuate ISIS casualties and would treat them in Turkish hospitals.

Gallup, Clinton Most Admired Woman for Record 20th Time, Jeffrey M. Jones, Dec. 28, 2016. Americans again name Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama the woman and man living anywhere in the world they admire most. Both win by wide margins over the next-closest finishers, Malala Yousafzai for women and Pope Francis and Donald Trump for men.

Although Clinton and Obama each led this year's poll by significant margins, the percentage mentioning each as most admired is slightly lower than the percentages they have received in the past. Across the eight times Obama has been most admired man, an average 23% of Americans have named him, while in the 20 times Clinton has been most admired woman, an average 16% have named her.

New York Times, Officer Will Not Face Charges in Shooting of Cleveland Boy, Mitch Smith, Dec. 28, 2015. Tamir Rice, 12, was killed as he was playing with a replica gun in a park. Relatives and activists, who called the shooting senseless, had sought charges in the case.

Washington Post, Federal judge: Drinking tea, shopping at a gardening store is probable cause for a SWAT raid on your home, Radley Balko, Dec. 28, 2015. In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of  “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed every one of the Hartes’s claims. Lungstrum found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive field test and spotting a suspect at a gardening store was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

AFP via Yahoo News, IS leader linked to Paris attacks 'mastermind' killed in Syria: Pentagon, Staff report, Dec. 28, 2015. An Islamic State leader with "direct" ties to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was among 10 senior figures in the group killed in Syria and Iraq this month, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Baghdad-based US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters that French national Charaffe al Mouadan was killed in a US-led coalition air strike on December 24. Mouadan had been actively plotting further attacks against the West, Warren said, without giving additional details. "He was a Syrian-based ISIL member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Paris attacks cell leader," Warren said in a video call, using an alternative acronym for the IS group. 

 

Richard Helms in CIA Photo with WhoWhatWhy GraphicFormer CIA Director Richard Helms Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from CIA Library

WhoWhatWhy, Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald (Part 3), Peter Dale Scott, Dec. 28, 2015. Introduction by Milicent Cranor: This is an essay about lies — layer upon layer of lies — told by US intelligence agencies and other officials about what Lee Harvey Oswald, or his look-alike, was allegedly doing in Mexico just weeks before the Kennedy assassination. And it is about obstruction of justice in what is considered the crime of the century.

The original goal, it seems, was to associate Oswald, in advance of the events of Dealey Plaza, with the USSR and Cuba. The essay focuses on tales told by Richard Helms, a top official of the CIA in 1963 who later became its director — and is based on a talk given by Peter Dale Scott. Scott is the popularizer of the expression, “Deep Politics,” and a virtuoso when it comes to what sometimes seems like grabbing smoke — capturing proof, however elusive, of motives and objectives that could explain  the machinations of US intelligence agencies — and then analyzing the residue. Essay based on talk given by Peter Dale Scott at Third Annual JFK Assassination Conference in Dallas, 2015.

Dec. 27

CIA Director Richard Helms is shown at a White House meeting.WhoWhatWhy, Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald (Part 2), Peter Dale Scott, Dec. 27, 2015. CIA Director Richard Helms is shown at a White House meeting. This is an essay about lies — layer upon layer of lies — told by US intelligence agencies and other officials about what Lee Harvey Oswald, or his look-alike, was allegedly doing in Mexico just weeks before the Kennedy assassination. And it is about obstruction of justice in what is considered the crime of the century. See also Part I: The JFK Assassination: Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald, Not Ancient History — But Preamble to the Present.

Zero Hedge, 12,000 Oil Tanker Trucks Parked At Iraq-Turkey Border Aren't Carrying ISIS Crude, Kurds Swear, Tyler Durden, Dec. 27, 2015. Less than 48 hours ago, Russia said it spotted some 12,000 tankers and trucks on the Turkish-Iraqi border. As for the Kurds, well they swear it's [their] oil and not Islamic State's that's tied up at the border. Of course, Kurdish crude is just as "undocumented" as ISIS oil given that technically it belongs to Baghdad and not Erbil. The Kurds want you to believe is that none of the nearly 12,000 tankers parked at Zakho contain any ISIS crude. Note the timing. ISIS is losing ground and is on the verge of relinquishing Ramadi to Iraqi forces. One certainly wonders if the group's funding needs are rising just as the Russians are cutting off their revenue stream forcing Baghdadi to get as much of the oil through as possible while he still can.

Salon, Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed,” Dec. 27, 2015. The material below is excerpted from The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt Ronald Reaganto Bill Clinton by William E. Leuchtenburg, a prominent professor of history, to be published by Oxford University Press.

At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. 

In all fields of public affairs — from diplomacy to the economy — the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.”

Strategic Culture Foundation, America Was Prepared to Annihilate Prague, Warsaw, Other Capitals, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 27, 2015. Recently-declassified nuclear targeting documents from 1959 describe how Washington planned to obliterate the capital cities of what are now America’s NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe. The revelation casts doubt on Washington’s Cold War commitment to the protection of what it referred to as "captive nations" in Europe. The documents are contained in a report titled, "SAC (Strategic Air Command) Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959."

The US Air Force study called for the "systematic destruction" of such major population centers as Warsaw, East Berlin, Prague, Bucharest, Tallinn, and others, as well as Peiping (Beijing), Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and Moscow. Atomic bombs eight times to destructive force of that dropped by the United States on Hiroshima were trained on a number of targets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There were 179 «designated ground zeros» for atomic bombs in Moscow and 145 in St. Petersburg.
 
US atomic weapons would have laid waste to Wittstock, just upwind of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hometown of Templin in Brandenburg in the former East Germany. It is most certain that had the US launched an atomic attack on Europe, Merkel, her parents Horst and Herlind Kasner, and brother Marcus would have been vaporized in the massive pre-targeted strike on East Berlin and the regions surrounding it.

USA Watchdog, US Stupid Enough to Cause Nuclear War: Paul Craig Roberts, Greg Hunter (shown at right), Dec. 27, 2015. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts (shown at right Greg Hunter USA Watchdogbelow) has a dim view of the so-called “economic recovery.” Dr. Roberts contends, “There has been no recovery whatsoever. . . . If you look at the economy realistically, and that means you don’t use their phony numbers, there has been no recovery whatsoever and, in fact, it continues to worsen."

On war, Dr. Roberts’ view is dire and goes on to explain, “Everything that previous presidents have done to try to defuse the kind of tensions between nuclear powers that could lead to war, all this has been thrown away by Clinton, George W. Bush and the current White House fool. It’s all due to the Neoconservatives. So, yes, we are in a more dangerous situation than in the worst part of the cold war. Thanks to the neoconservatives and thanks to the American ‘presstitute’ media with people who lie for a living, we are in more danger than we have ever been."

Dec. 26

Washington Post, Officers have fatally shot nearly 1,000 civilians in 2015, Kimberly Kindy, Marc Fisher, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins,A year-long Post study found that incidents that ignited race-based protests represented less than 4 percent of such deaths. The vast majority of people who died at the hands of police had weapons, were mentally troubled or ran when asked to halt.

Washington Post, Pornographic email scandal ripples through Pa. politics, Natalie Pompilio, Dec. 26, 2015. Over the past 15 months, beleaguered Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (shown in a file photo) has released a Kathleen Kanesteady stream of messages retrieved from a state email server that show state officials and employees trading pornographic, racist and misogynistic messages. There are jokes about rape and sexual assault, photos mocking African Americans and other minorities, and insults leveled at people because of their weight, their sexual orientation or their religion.

At least two state Supreme Court justices and numerous officials in the office of the attorney general have been caught in the scandal that has been dubbed “Porngate.” It’s a massive scandal, with a new twist each week, but it has produced little uproar among state residents. Still, those who do pay attention say this epic mess is a disaster for the state’s justice system.

Washington Post, Rubio’s past support for immigration reform haunts him on campaign trail, Sean Sullivan, Dec. 26, 2015. More than two years after the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” unveiled a comprehensive plan iMarco Rubio officialn the Senate, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio (shown in an official photo) finds himself needing to justify his membership in the group to a skeptical conservative base.

Channel 9 News (Australia), ISIL oil smugglers trapped as Russian bombs rain down, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2015. Russian bombers have conducted deadly raids on thousands of trucks believed to be smuggling illegal oil for ISIL over the Iraq-Turkey border on the same day a Syrian rebel chief was killed in similar air strikes. An estimated 12,000 heavy-duty trucks were seen backed up on both sides of the Zakho checkpoint, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq bordering Turkey, according to aerial footage released by the Russian Defense Ministry.

With the threat of an impending attack, hundreds of drivers can be seen frantically trying to flee to safety or abandon their trucks as bombs rain down. Many tankers lie destroyed, smoke and flames billowing out. The Russian Air Force is estimated to have destroyed more than 2,000 tankers used by ISIL for smuggling oil since starting a bombing campaign in late September. The crippling effect of the raids has forced ISIL to disguise their trucks, as well as transport cargo mainly at night.

New York Times, U.N. Sets Syrian Peace Talks as Fighting Complicates Task, Somini Sengupta and Anne Barnard, Dec. 26, 2015. The United Nations said Saturday that it intended to move ahead with peace talks between the Syrian government and rebel forces in late January, a signal to all parties that a tenuous political process aimed at ending the war would not be quashed by gains and losses on the battlefield.
The announcement by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, set a “target date” to start talks on Jan. 25 in Geneva. It included a nudge not just to the Syrian rivals but to their patrons in capitals around the world, who for the first time in nearly five years have agreed on a road map to end the nearly five-year war.

Dec. 25

ISIS truck convoyISIS truck convoy (file photo)

RT, Intel spots 12,000 oil tankers & trucks on Turkey-Iraq border: General Staff, Kevin Owen, Dec. 25, 2015. Russian intelligence has spotted up to 12,000 tankers and trucks on the Turkish-Iraqi border, the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces has reported. “The [aerial] imagery was made in the vicinity of Zakho (a city in Iraqi Kurdistan), there were 11,775 tankers and trucks on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border,” Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy told journalists on Friday. The Russian Air Force in Syria has destroyed about 2,000 tankers used by the Islamists for oil transportation. In the last week, Russian warplanes eliminated 17 convoys of oil tankers and a number of installations used by terrorists for oil extraction and processing.


Reuters, Top Syrian rebel leader killed in air strike in Damascus suburb, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Dec. 25, 2015. A top Syrian rebel leader and head of the most powerful insurgent group in the eastern suburbs of Damascus was killed in an aerial raid that targeted the group's headquarters, rebel sources and the Syrian army said on Friday. The death of Zahran Alloush, 44, head of Jaysh al Islam, is a big blow to rebel control of the rural eastern suburban area of Damascus known as al Ghouta, the rebels said. Defense experts say the disarray among the rebel forces could also consolidate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's control over the rest of the area. The rebel sources said that in the raid Russian planes fired at least 10 missiles at a secret headquarters of the group, which is the largest rebel faction in the area and has about 15,000 to 20,000 fighters, according to Western intelligence.

U.S. Department of Defense, Coalition Forces Continue Attacks on ISIL Targets in Syria, Iraq, Staff report, Dec. 25, 2015. U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today. Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports. Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 12 strikes in Syria.

Dec. 24

Montgomery Advertiser, Siegelman column riddled with 'inaccuracies,' Stephen Feaga, Dec. 24, 2015. As a lead prosecutor in United States v. Don Siegelman I took some interest in the recent opinion piece penned by Montgomery Advertiser columnist Josh Moon, "End the embarrassment and pardon Don Siegelman." Mr. Moon is entitled to his opinion, but almost every “fact” he cites in the Dec. 16 column as a basis for his opinion is incorrect. From past experience, I know the Advertiser values its reputation for publishing facts. Mr. Moon’s column contained so many inaccuracies that I can’t address them all in a letter to the editor. But I will point to just a few.

Dec. 23

 

RT, Apocalyptic scenes of Damascus suburb obliterated by violent clashes, Murad Gazdiev, Dec. 23, 2015 (Illustrated with exclusive drone photos above). The Jobar neighborhood of Damascus is the epicenter of some of the fiercest fighting in Syria with Islamist rebels refusing to give up their only stronghold. Once densely populated, the area has now been completely obliterated. Before the conflict in Syria erupted in 2011, the neighborhood was home to some 300,000 residents, most of whom were Sunni Muslims. The suburb contained a number of ancient landmarks, most notably the Green Synagogue, the oldest Jewish synagogue in the world. It also contained the Grand Jobar Mosque in addition to the tomb of the Prophet Elijah. Jobar also housed ancient baths that were built during Ottoman times.

Reuters, Russia hosts pro-Kurdish Turkish politician who condemns Ankara, Dmitry Solovyov, Dec. 23, 2015. The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday and criticized Ankara for shooting down a Russian warplane last month. Russia, which imposed economic sanctions on Turkey after the Nov. 24 incident, and has sharply criticized President Tayyip Erdogan and would be keenly aware of the sensitivity of Ankara to any contacts between Moscow and Kurdish politicians. The visit by Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), is likely to further damage ties between Moscow and Ankara. Erdogan has accused the HDP of connections with armed Kurdish rebels fighting in Turkey's southeast.

Washington Post, U.S. plans raids to deport families who surged across border, Jerry Markon and David Nakamura, Dec. 23, 2015. Homeland Security officials are preparing for raids that would target hundreds of families who have flocked to the U.S. since the start of 2014, according to people familiar with the operation.

Peter Dale ScottWhoWhatWhy via Global Research, The JFK Assassination: Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald, Not Ancient History — But Preamble to the Present, Peter Dale Scott, Dec. 24, 2015. The following essay is based on a talk given by author and retired professor Peter Dale Scott (shown at left) at the Third Annual JFK Assassination Conference in Dallas, 2015. (Produced by TrineDay Books, Conscious Community Events, and the JFK Historical Group.)

I wish in this essay to show how Richard Helms [shown in right] first lied to the Warren Commission about the CIA and Lee Harvey Oswald. I argue that his performance, and that of Richard M. Helmsother CIA officials up to the present, constituted significant obstruction of justice with respect to one of this country’s most important unsolved murder cases. Furthermore, we can deduce from the carefully contrived wording of Helms’s lies what the CIA most needed to hide: namely, that the CIA had recently launched a covert operation involving the name of Lee Harvey Oswald (and perhaps Oswald himself), only five weeks before President Kennedy was killed.

That operation — either in itself, or because it was somehow exploited by others — would appear to have become a supportive part of the assassination plot. It seems almost certain moreover that the “Oswald operation” became the focal point of the ensuing CIA cover-up, and of Helms’s perjury.

As I relate in my book Dallas ’63: The First Revolt of the Deep State Against the White House, there was culpable lying and cover-up from many others in high places, including individuals in the FBI, the Secret Service, ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence], and probably still more military intelligence agencies.

Daily Mail, Washington Post forced to pull cartoon depicting Ted Cruz's young daughters as trained monkeys, David Martosko, Dec. 23, 2015. The Washington Post has retracted an editorial cartoon that showed Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz's two daughters as trained monkeys, and Cruz as an organ grinder who controls them. Ann Telnaes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, defended her decision to mock Cruz and his children, but her editor wrote that the only reason the cartoon was published was that he never saw it beforehand.

Hartford Courant, Mystery Surrounds Newspaper's Relationship To Las Vegas Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson's Legal Fight, Matthew Kauffman, Dec. 23, 2015. With a reporting staff that numbers in the single Sheldon Adelsondigits, the New Britain Herald still fills its pages seven days a week with city politics, police news, local sports and a variety of community topics from teen pregnancy to Christmas caroling. Given its lean resources and hyperlocal focus, the Herald surprised some earlier this month by devoting an entire page to a lengthy exposition on business courts, including a 10-paragraph section criticizing the actions of a little-known judge three time zones away in Las Vegas.

That article, tucked on Page 12 of a Tuesday paper, is now shining an uncomfortable spotlight on the man who saved the Herald from extinction — publisher Michael Schroeder, who has a business relationship with Sheldon Adelson (shown in a file photo), a prominent casino operator who has clashed with the Las Vegas judge scrutinized in the Herald article. Schroeder now finds himself caught up in a complex mystery at the intersection of politics, media and business — a mystery with a litany of unanswered questions, among them: Why would a local paper in New Britain devote so much space to dissecting the rulings of a county judge 2,288 miles away? And who is the mysterious "Edward Clarkin" whose name appears as the author of the Herald story?  See also, Media Nation, Las Vegas editor out as details emerge about judge story, Dan Kennedy, Dec. 22, 2015.

Washington Post, Trump played a clever trick when he called Clinton’s bathroom visit ‘disgusting,’ Zachary A. Goldfarb, Dec. 22, 2015. On Monday night, Donald Trump made his latest polarizing comment, saying it was “too disgusting” to talk about Hillary Clinton’s use of the bathroom during the last Democratic debate and that she had got “schlonged” by Barack Obama when she lost to him in the 2008 Democratic primary.

Trump was surely talking off-the-cuff in his usual style — and the comments were criticized as offensive and sexist — but it was another example of his mastery in exploiting the psychological biases of conservatives who see much to dislike in today’s society and express support for Trump in the polls. In fact, a growing mass of academic research has shown that conservatives have a particular revulsion to “disgusting” images. In this line of thinking, Trump’s decision to describe Clinton, one of the most disliked people by conservatives, as a “disgusting” figure would have been an especially powerful way to rile up his supporters.

NBC News, Hillary Clinton: Don't let someone 'bully his way' into the presidency, Dec. 23, 2015. At an event on Tuesday, Clinton did not make direct mention of Trump's crude remark — but did single him out for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and double down on her claim that ISIS is using Trump to recruit. A question at the end of the Keota, Iowa, event appeared to offer Clinton a chance to hit back. When a young girl with asthma told Clinton she had been bullied in school and wanted some advice, the candidate responded by saying she had become quite familiar with bullying in her life. "You're looking at somebody who's had a lot of terrible things said about me," she said. "I'm old enough that it doesn't particularly bother me but I can't imagine what it's like to be, you know, a young person in today's world where that's coming at you all the time."

PaulCraigRoberts.org, Presstitute Ranks Expand, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 23, 2015. Now the ranks of Washington’s presstitute propagandists include Sybil Edmonds, whom I supported to the hilt during her persecution by Washington, and Cobett, whose Corbett report I gave many hours on interviews. Now the two are carrying on Washington’s propaganda against RT and Putin, and are accusing me of “Putin worship” because I report the facts. We are witnessing even the victims of the American Police State collapsing and becoming presstitutes.

Dec. 22

Corbett Report, West Prepares to Replace Their Puppet in Turkey, James Corbett interviews former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, Dec. 22, 2015 (video 31:01 min.). Sibel Edmonds of BoilingFrogsPost.com joins us once again to discuss the ongoing "reverse engineering" of Erdogan by the NATO/CIA/Kurdish/Israeli/Russian forces that oppose him. We talk about the hypocritical and nearly-unanimous coverage of Erdogan's abuses -- and how and why this narrative is converging now to finish the US/NATO task of removing him from office to usher in a more pliable puppet.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at CNN Debate

Democratic Presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at CNN-sponsored debate in October

OpEdNews, Bernie Sanders Should Stand Up To The DNC and Debate Republicans NOW, Rob Kall, Dec. 22, 2015. Just as Donald Trump has the GOP leadership shaking in their boots, Bernie Sanders has the DNC nervous. He should go further. Time for Bernie to psych them so they need to change their pants. People are sick and tired of party politics. This election season has shown that people want a candidate who shows he doesn't bow down to hack party leaders.

The DNC has seriously hurt Sanders by restricting the number of debates, and scheduling the authorized ones for low viewership time slots-- Saturday nights, and competing with multiple NFL football games. Bernie should snub the DNC's edict that primary candidates who debate Republicans will not be allowed to participate in debates. This is not a legitimate rule anyway. Bernie should get into it with Trump, Cruz, Rubio, any candidate who will engage. When the DNC tries to tell him to stop, he should tell them to pound sand -- that they don't have the right to keep him silent, which is what they've been doing.

Really, what are they going to say, "You've been naughty so we won't let Democratic voters see you debate the candidate we want?"

There are no second chances here. Iowa is just a few weeks away. Bernie should exercise the independence he's demonstrated all his life. Go for it Bernie break the DNC rule. Show your stuff to the people you will be running against.

Washington Post, Virginia to stop recognizing concealed carry gun permits from 25 states, Jenna Portnoy, Dec. 22, 2015. Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) announced Tuesday that Virginia will no longer recognize concealed carry handgun permits from 25 states that have reciprocity agreements with the commonwealth. Under the policy, Virginians with a history of stalking, drug dealing or inpatient mental-health treatment cannot obtain a permit in a state with comparatively lax laws and carry a handgun legally at home. Virginia Republicans reacted angrily to Herring’s action, accusing him of politicizing his office to erode Second Amendment gun rights. The State Police superintendent accepted Herring’s recommendation to sever agreements with those states, effective Feb. 1.

The New Yorker, It’s Time for Obama to Go Big on Pardons, Jeffrey Toobin, Dec. 22, 2015. President Obama, pictured here during the investiture ceremony of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, has made modest actions to reform mass incarceration, but he could be using his Presidential pardon power more aggressively. The orderly mind of Barack Obama appears to recoil at the vulgar world of pardons. The President is a consummate rationalist, a believer in systems and order. Pardons, in contrast, rely exclusively on the whim of the grantor. This Presidential power is descended from the concept known in Great Britain as the royal prerogative of mercy—three words that seem almost guaranteed to offend this President, singularly or especially aligned together.

Greene County Democrat (Alabama), Obama vows to defeat ISIS, grants 95 pardons and 2 commutations; Don Siegelman not on the list, Wire and staff reports, Dec. 22, 2015. At what is likely to be President Obama's last Don Siegelmannews conference of the year before leaving for a family Christmas vacation, he announced plans to grant Christmastime clemency to 95 federal prisoners Friday, trimming their sentences under what USA Today reported as “an initiative to free prisoners sentenced under mandatory minimum prison terms. He also issued pardons to two others.”

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who is serving a seven-year sentence in an Oakdale, Louisiana Federal prison for questionable charges of corruption brought by Republican prosecutors, was not on the list of those pardoned. Hundreds of Alabama citizens have written and petitioned President Obama for Siegelman’s early release, but so far to no avail.

It was the largest single-day grant of clemency of Obama’s presidency. He has now commuted the prison sentences of 184 people, more than any president since Lyndon Johnson (226) and surpassing the combined number granted by presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush (117). Most of the commutations to shorter sentences dealt with drug offenses, but also included 15 gun crimes — usually while committing a drug offense — and one armed bank robbery. The two pardons involved counterfeiting and bank fraud. Friday’s list included 40 people serving life sentences. Most will be released in April.

Al.com, Alabama auditor slams Gov. Robert Bentley for $1.5 million renovation of gulf mansion, Adam Ganucheau, Dec. 22, 2015. Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler slammed Gov. Robert Bentley in a written statement regarding the $1.5 million renovation of the long-dilapidated Gulf Coast governor's mansion. Zeigler, who has publicly criticized the governor on numerous policy issues this year, claims the governor is taking advantage of state money to build a personal home after he lost ownership of his personal beach homes in his September divorce. The two-story, 7,500-square-foot gubernatorial mansion in Baldwin County is receiving a facelift – estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million – after sitting boarded up since Hurricane Danny in 1997. The state will use grant money provided by BP and left over from the 2010 oil spill to cover the cost.

Huffington Post, How Our Corrupt Campaign Finance System Enabled Trump -- And Kneecapped His Rivals, Jason Linkins, Dec. 22, 2015. While the rest of the field hopelessly chases megadonors and their unlimited dark money, Trump is having the last laugh.

Washington Post, Justice Department shuts down federal asset forfeiture program, Christopher Ingraham, Dec. 22, 2015. Officials announced the suspension of a controversial program that allows local police departments to keep a large portion of cash and property seized from citizens, even if they are never charged.

Shadowproof, Report: 60 Percent Of Syrian Rebels Are Sympathetic To ISIS, Dan Wright, Dec. 22, 2015. So much for the “moderate rebels.” A report from the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, a think tank run by the Tony Blair Foundation, finds that ISIS represents the mainstream of the Syrian rebels groups trying to overthrow the Assad government. According to the think tank linked to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, roughly 60% of the rebel fighters in Syria are sympathetic to ISIS’ political and religious beliefs and practices. While there may be personal disputes between ISIS and the other rebels, most find little problem with ISIS’ ideology and governing style.

These findings stand in considerable contrast to earlier claims made by the Obama Administration, about which groups constituted the Syrian rebels. President Obama had, at one point, pushed to train a so-called moderate rebel force in Syria and spent $500 million to do so. After the failures of the program became evident, Obama switched his position and labeled the belief in the moderate rebels as a viable force to take on ISIS and Assad as a “fantasy.”

Democracy Now! Seymour Hersh's Latest Bombshell: U.S. Military Undermined Obama on Syria with Tacit Help to Assad, Amy Goodman, Dec. 22, 2015. A new report by the Pulitzer-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh says the Joint Chiefs of Staff has [sic] indirectly supported Bashar al-Assad in an effort to help him defeat jihadist groups. Hersh reports the Joint Chiefs sent intelligence via Russia, Germany and Israel on the understanding it would be transmitted to help Assad push back Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.

Hersh: Well, it began, actually, as I wrote, with a very serious, extensive assessment of our policy, that was completed by June — let’s say by middle of 2013, two-and-a-half years ago. It was a study done by the Joint Chiefs and the Defense Intelligence Agency that came to three sort of conclusions, that may seem obvious now but were pretty interesting then.

One is that they said Assad must stay, at least through — through the resolution of the war, because, as we saw in Libya, once you get rid of a leader, like Gaddafi — same, you can argue, in Iraq with the demise of Saddam Hussein — chaos ensues.

Consortium News, Sarin Attack at Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), Dec. 22, 2015. One reason why Official Washington continues to insist that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” is that he supposedly “gassed his own people” with sarin on Aug. 21, 2013, but the truth of that allegation has never been established and is in growing doubt, U.S. intelligence veterans point out. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited.

Information Clearinghouse, On the 19th Day of Christmas, Dmitry Orlov, Dec. 22, 2015. The Ukraine is in full-blown collapse — all five glorious stages of it — setting the stage for a Ukrainian Nightmare.

Phase 1. Financially, the Ukrainian government is in sovereign default as of a couple of days ago. The IMF was forced to break its own rules in order to keep it on life support even though it is clearly a deadbeat. In the process, the IMF stiffed Russia, which happens to be one of its major shareholders; what gives?

Phase 2. Industry and commerce are approaching a standstill and the country is rapidly deindustrializing.

Phase 3. Politically, the Ukrainian government is a total farce. Much of it has been turned over to fly-by-night foreigners, such as the former Georgian president Saakashvili, who is a wanted criminal in his own country, which has recently stripped him of his citizenship.Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was recently hauled off the podium by his crotch; how dignified is that? He seemed unfazed.  This sort of action may be fun to watch on Youtube, but the reality is quite sad....

Mirror (London), Legendary Paris 'Madame' who supplied prostitutes to JFK, Gaddafi and Brando dies at 92, Peter Allen, Dec. 22, 2015. Fernande Grudet was known as Madame Claude and is credited with coining the term 'call girl' thanks to her telephone booking system for VIP clients.

Dec. 21

Washington Post, What’s freedom worth? Less than 3 billion euros, apparently, Can Dündar, Dec. 21, 2015. The writer is the imprisoned editor in chief of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. With its Flag of Turkeyhigh-dollar refugee deal with Turkey, the European Union abets Turkey’s abuse of its own citizens. Last month, while accommodating world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Antalya, the Turkish government observed this tradition, taking a break from exerting certain “domestic pressures.” But as soon as the guests left, it added Erdem Gül, Ankara bureau chief at the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and me to the more than 20 journalists it has already put in jail.

In today’s world, which long ago became a global village, one would think that such despotic acts would attract notice and invite repercussions. On Nov. 26, I was imprisoned for publishing a news article on trucks being used by the Turkish intelligence service to illegally transport arms into Syria. Then, just days later, the European Union and Turkey came together for a summit on the migration crisis. In a letter written on behalf of all imprisoned journalists, Gül and I reminded European leaders of the core values of Western civilization, such as freedom of the press, thought and expression. As these leaders walked into the summit in Brussels, they had our letter in one pocket and the 3 billion euros they would give to Turkey in the other. The money in the right pocket was deemed more important than the letter in the left.

McClatchy, What really happened to the U.S. train-and-equip program in Syria? Roy Gutman, Dec. 21, 2015. Participants’ descriptions suggest trainees and trainers never agreed on mission. There were arguments and walkouts over goals, escorts, food supplies, expenses. Fifty-four U.S.-trained Syrian fighters arrived at the Bab al Salama crossing in Syria in mid-July 2015 in a convoy of pickup trucks after completing a two-month training course in Turkey. But after they reached their base, the men decided to take a home leave. On returning to base two weeks later, calamity struck when many walked into a trap set by the Nusra Front, the Al Qaida affiliate in Syria.

Ten weeks later, the Pentagon announced that it had halted the program, which until that moment had been the keystone of the Obama administration’s policy to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in Syria. The program’s demise has been ascribed to a number of factors, including the participants, the Turkish intelligence agency MIT and a Syrian militia, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, better known as the YPG. But a McClatchy investigation shows that the primary factor may well have been the United States itself, which conceived of a program that didn’t have the support of the people it was intended to train and was viewed with deep skepticism by its key training partner, Turkey.

Shadowproof, London Review of Books (LRB), Military to Military, Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war, Seymour Hersh (shown in file photo) Dec. 21, 2015 (print publication dated Jan. 7, 2016) (6,831 words). Barack Obama’s repeated Seymour Hershinsistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

Shadowproof, Vox’s Max Fisher is Wrong About Seymour Hersh, Explained, Kevin Gosztola, Dec. 21, 2015. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a report on how the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff deviated from President Barack Obama’s policy on Syria by sharing military intelligence indirectly with Bashar al-Assad’s government. It also indicated the Joint Chiefs dissented against Obama’s “insistence that ‘moderate’ rebel groups” could defeat Assad because they were all primarily extremists.

Well over twenty-four hours later, there are zero establishment media outlets that have run follow-ups or coverage of Hersh’s reporting. Only “Democracy Now!” had Hersh on their December 22 show and asked him about what he uncovered. Instead, a critique produced by Max Fisher and published at Vox has given U.S. journalists the justification to dismiss all of the major claims and issues raised in Hersh’s report. Fisher, who is Vox’s resident Seymour Hersh critic, outlines in an op-ed or “explainer” why he believes Hersh’s report is nothing but a “bizarre conspiracy theory.” His representation of the claims in the report is entirely overwrought.

Jon Meacham Bush book cover.

Author Jon Meacham

StoneZone, Destiny and Power: The American Whitewash of George Herbert Walker Bush, Roger Stone, Dec. 21, 2015. John Meacham's "biography" of our 41st President George H.W. Bush, Destiny and Power, comes in at a whopping 864 pages and a wrist snapping 3.4 pounds and it's pure whitewash. It ignores inconvenient historical facts because it is an authorized biography. Meacham seems oblivious that the goofy, patrician manner and weird syntaxes that makes him look like a bumbler hide a man of steely ambition, ruthlessness, entitlement and duplicity. Fortunately, my own book Jeb and the Bush Crime Family will be released Jan 26th and will expose what a tool of the power elite "Historian" Meachem is. 

  • Meacham ignores declassified Federal Documents showing Bush was in Dallas on November 22, 1963 staying steps from Dealey Plaza and lied to the FBI to create an alibi when he said for 30 years he "couldn't remember where he was." Not in Meacham's book.
  • Meacham omits stonewalling of the Iran-Contra investigators on the trail of cocaine and arms smuggling he oversaw a vice president and chair of a secret task force to illegally raise money for Nicguaran rebels. Bush, on advice of presidential legal counsel Boydon Gray, creepy son of Eugenics Guru and funder Gordon Gray, refused to be questioned or turn over documents. Not in Meacham's book.
  • CIA Drug Smuggler and Pilot Barry Seal was murdered 3 days after threatening to expose Bush Sons Jeb and W. involvement with drug smuggling. Seal is gunned down with Bush 41 private phone number in his wallet. Not in Meacham's book.

Reuters via Huffington Post, Obama Chides Republicans For Lack Of Alternatives On ISIS, Julia Edwards, Dec. 21, 2015. "When you ask them, 'well, what would you do instead?' they don't have an answer."  President Obama said his administration is open to some "legitimate criticism" for failing to adequately explain its strategy to counter Islamic State, though he chided Republican presidential candidates for criticizing his policy without offering an alternative. In a Dec. 17 interview aired on NPR public radio at 5 a.m. ET Monday, Obama attributed his low approval ratings for how he has handled terrorism to the saturation of Islamic State attacks in the media after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

OpEdNews, Donald Trump: An Evaluation, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 21, 2015. Trump cannot be a dissident politician without a dissident staff. He doesn't know the people who would comprise a dissident staff. Trump knows how to make deals, and the Establishment will staff up a Trump presidency with deals. The minute Trump takes office, he would be already captured.

Washington Post, Tex. grand jury issues no indictments in jailhouse death of Sandra Bland, Sarah Kaplan, Dec. 21, 2015. Bland’s arrest during a July traffic stop in Texas turned confrontational, and she was found dead in police custody three days later. Protesters alleged that she should not have been arrested. The grand jury will reconvene in January to take up unidentified "remaining issues" in the case.

Dec. 20

Off Guardian (United Kingdom), New East Network: Who is the Guardian speaking for? Kit, Dec. 20, 2015. Part one of our series investigating the Guardian’s “New East Network.” A network of “media partners” United Kingdom flagaiming to “expand coverage” of ex-Soviet states, we take a look inside and ask: Just with whom is the Guardian in partnership?

First appearing in the Guardian on the 9th of June 2014, at the height of Ukraine crisis – when a new “invasion” was being reported every twenty minutes or so, the New East Network (NEN) has brought us such groundbreaking journalism as “Putin walks funny.”

So far we have eight “partners”: 3 with direct ties to the American government and/or intelligence agencies, 2 of which are personal projects of billionaires with well-known anti-Russia agendas, 2 of which are both, and 1 which was set up by the European Union. It seems that when the Guardian talks about “expanding coverage,” what they mean is broadcasting the views of billionaire oligarchs, ex-CIA analysts, the European Union or some delightful mix of all three.

One wonders if the NEN being set up so soon after the Guardian came under such pressure from GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] that they voluntarily destroyed their own computers could really be a coincidence. In the space of two years the Guardian has gone from broadcasting the illegal actions of the US/UK governments, to re-printing CIA and State Department press releases. There’s a name for that, and it’s not “expanding coverage.”

Christine LaGarde at National Press Club (Photo courtesy Noel St. John)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Christine LaGarde at National Press Club (Photo courtesy Noel St. John)

OpEdNews, The One Percent Rallies Behind IMF Director Christine Lagarde, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 20, 2015. Washington removed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the leading contender for the French presidency and as director of the IMF by framing him on phony charges of raping a New York hotel maid. The obviously false charge was proven to be totally fabricated and had to be dropped. In the meantime, Strass-Kahn had been forced to resign from the IMF and to drop out of the French election. Washington regarded Strauss-Kahn as insufficiently compliant with Washington’s agendas and moved him aside.

Washington got its vassal, Francois Hollande, elected President of France, and replaced Strauss-Kahn at the IMF with the “rhymes-with-witch” Christine LaGarde. LaGarde serves only the One Percent. She overturned the decision by the IMF’s professional staff that the Greek debt had to be written down to a sum that the country could afford to service. Instead, LaGarde enabled the One Percent to loot the Greek nation and the Greek people, forcing many young Greek women into prostitution in order to have money for food.

LaGarde’s crimes have caught up with her. A French judicial commission has ordered her to stand trial for alleged negligence over a decision she made as finance minister of France. Despite the judicial order that she stand trial, she has not had to resign as IMF director. The One Percent protects its own. The IMF’s executive board “continues to express its confidence in the Managing Director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties.” [See also Wall Street Journal: IMF Chief Lagarde Ordered to Stand Trial in France.]

No such expression of confidence was given to Strauss-Kahn when he was arrested on obviously false charges.

StephenLendmanBlog, IMF Chief Lagarde to Stand Trial, Stephen Lendman, Dec. 20, 2015. Charges are unrelated to her greatest crimes – representing the US-controlled IMF and Western monied interests at the expense of beneficial social change. The agency is a bandit operation, the loan shark lender of last resort, force-feeding economic and financial harshness on nations in return for loans – followed by new ones needed to pay debt service, an endless cycle of debt peonage, monied interests profiting hugely. Ordinary people suffer greatly as expected. So do debt-entrapped countries, forced to obey harsh IMF diktats – incompatible with social democracy, civil and human rights.

Reuters via Huffington Post, Russian Warplanes Allegedly Kill Scores In Syrian City, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Dec. 20, 2015. Rescue workers said they had confirmed 43 dead but that at least 30 more bodies had been retrieved that had still to be identified. Over 150 people were wounded with some of the serious cases sent to hospitals in Turkey. Separately, the Syrian army with the backing of Russian air power said on Sunday it had seized the rebel held town of Khan Touman in southern Aleppo, a major gain that opened the way for advances further to the west in Idlib province. The advances brought the army only a few kilometers from the major rebel-controlled Aleppo-Damascus highway, whose capture would be a big boost to the Syrian army.

Breitbart, Karl Rove, Mike Murphy Under Fire for Epic Super PAC Failures, C. Edmund Wright, Dec. 20, 2015. If repeat business is the top sign of a success, then Karl Rove is now the poster boy for campaign strategy failure. According to a report by Gabriel Sherman in New York Magazine, Rove’s fund raising for the 2016 campaign is currently at less than 1 per cent of what he ended up with in 2012, and indications are it’s not going to get much better. Do the math: he’s down more than 99 percent. Even if he eventually raises ten fold what he’s pulled in so far, he’s still likely to be down 90 percent plus.

That’s because many of his previous benefactors are seething with anger over the 2012 failure. This has to do not only with the electoral disaster – which was obvious – but also with the arrogance with which Rove and the other sorcerers of Crossroads raised and spent money, how they insisted on controlling the messaging, and all but guaranteed a win as a result. According to a conversation I had with someone close to Sheldon Adelson, Rove even let it be known that there was no room for other Super PACs to join the Romney effort – after Romney had dispatched Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Dec. 19

USA Today, Obama grants 95 Christmastime pardons and commutations, Gregory Korte,  Dec. 19, 2015. President Obama's decision to shorten the sentences of 95 federal prisoners Friday continued a continuing trend toward Christmastime clemency that's being criticized as part of "a broken process." Obama said the clemency grants — the largest single-day use of his pardon power in his presidency to date — "another step forward in upholding our fundamental ideals of justice and fairness." He also gave complete pardons to two people involved in counterfeiting and bank fraud, the White House announced.

Most of the commutations to shorter sentences dealt with drug offenders given long mandatory minimum sentences, but also included 15 gun crimes — usually while committing a drug offense — and one armed bank robbery.

Obama has now commuted the prison sentences of 184 people, more than any president since Lyndon Johnson (226) and surpassing the combined number granted by presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush (117).

Legal scholars who study clemency say the regular use of the pardon power is a healthy check and balance to long and expensive prison sentences. But they question why so many of Obama's grants have come in the weeks before Christmas.

Washington Post, Democrats draw contrast from GOP on handling terror threats, Karen Tumulty, Dec. 19, 2015.

 

Zero Hedge, Turkey Blasts "Breakthrough" UN Resolution On Syria: "It Lacks Perspective. Assad Must Go!" Tyler Durden, Dec. 19, 2015. Well, for anyone who thought Turkey might be set to bow to Flag of Turkeyinternational pressure by moving its troops north and thus back towards the Turkey-Iraq border, think again. Because on Saturday, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu was out with a series of declarations that seem to suggest Turkey is going full-belligerent-retard as Erdogan scrambles to preserve the “Assad must go” narrative on the way to securing whatever Ankara’s interests are in both Iraq and Syria.

First, Davutoglu said that the provision of training to the Peshmerga and Mosul militiamen is “in line with a request from Iraq authorities and as such, the mission in Iraq will continue “until Mosul is freed” from ISIS. Next, Davutoglu claims that the Islamic State attacks on Turkish positions in Bashiqa prove Turkey “is right.” Davutoglu then slammed a UN Security Council resolution agreed in New York on Friday. Diplomats adopted a resolution which purports to draw a road map for ending the war in Syria. For Turkey, the absence of a decision on Assad's future is maddening. The Security Council resolution "lacks realistic perspective," Davutoglu said on Saturday, before adding that the "Syria crisis can only be solved if Bashar al-Assad leaves power."

Consider that, and consider the fact that, as we reported yesterday, Ankara is now establishing a military base in Qatar in order that the two countries might work more closely on tackling "common enemies."

What we're beginning to see here is the formation of three alliances in the Mid-East: 1) Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq; 2) Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar; 3) Britain, France, and Germany. The first alliance is pro-Assad, anti-terror. The second is anti-Assad, pro-Sunni extremist. The third is anti-Assad (although less vehemently so). Note that we've left the US out. Why? Because Washington is now stuck. The US wants desperately to maintain coordination with Ankara, Riyadh, and Doha, but between stepped-up media coverage of Saudi Arabia's role in underwriting extremism (via the promotion of Wahhabism) and heightened scrutiny on Erdogan's role in financing terrorists, the position is becoming increasingly untenable. But aligning solely with the UK, France, and Germany entails adopting a more conciliatory approach to Assad. The US is now thoroughly confused as to what to do next.

Washington Post, U.S.: Airstrike that killed 10 Iraqi soldiers was ‘a mistake that involved both sides,’ Mustafa Salim and Missy Ryan, Dec. 19, 2015. An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition this week killed 10 Iraqi soldiers, the Iraqi government said Saturday, in an apparent friendly fire incident in which the U.S. defense secretary says both sides shared responsibility. Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi, at a news conference in Baghdad, said one Iraqi officer and nine soldiers were killed in the strike Friday, which took place south of the city of Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Guardian, Turkish troops move out of northern Iraq after Obama appeal for calm, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2015. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown in file photo) agrees to pull troops out of Iraq to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad, Recep Tayyip Erdoganwhich had accused Turkey of an ‘illegal incursion.’ Turkey has said said it would “continue” to pull its troops out of northern Iraq after US president Barack Obama urged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do so in order to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad over the deployment.

Washington Post, Deal reached between Sanders and DNC doesn’t do away with the disdain, John Wagner, Dec. 19, 2015. The accord announced after midnight between Bernie Sanders’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee did little to paper over their discord. In early Saturday morning statements, both parties relayed that the DNC — facing a federal lawsuit from the Sanders camp — had agreed to end its suspension of the campaign’s access to key voter information contained in a DNC-controlled database, including data the Sanders campaign had gathered about its own supporters.

Salon, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz must go, and the case Bernie Sanders must make tonight, Bill Curry, Dec. 19, 2015. Former Connecticut State Treasurer is a two-time Democratic nominee for the state's governorsip. The chairwoman is the Democrats' version of Katherine Harris -- inept, in the tank, and no longer to be trusted.

Reuters, Assad makes rare visit to church in Damascus, Kinda Makieh, Dec. 19, 2015. Syrian President Bashar al Assad attended Christmas choir preparations in an ancient church close to a frontline area in the Bashar and Asma Assadcapital Damascus where his army is engaged in heavy fighting with rebels, state media said on Saturday. State television showed footage of Assad and his wife Asma (shown together in a file photo) making the visit overnight to the Notre Dame de Damas Church, where he was shown chatting to the choir. He took a seat near the altar and listened to a recital of Christmas poems in the main cathedral hall. The surroundings of the church in the old part of the ancient capital were hit by mortar fire on Friday, officials said.

The church is only 2 km away from Jobar, a neighborhood of the rebel-held eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus that has been the focus for months of heavy aerial bombardments and more recently Russian bombing that have left dozens of mostly civilian casualties. Assad has portrayed himself in recent interviews with the Western media as a protector of Syria's minorities, saying his rule was an example of religious tolerance in a country threatened by Islamist insurgents who have taken swathes of territory and seek to impose their version of strict Islam.

White House, President Obama's Weekly Address: Top 10 Things that Happened in 2015, Tanya Somanader, Dec. 19, 2015. President Obama's top 10 things that happened in 2015 that should make every American optimistic about 2016.

 

Cannon Fire, Hillary, Nixon, JFK: The problem of false history, Joseph Cannon, Dec. 19, 2015. Earlier today, I read this piece. It's a review of an anti-Hillary book written by left-wing critic Diana Johnstone; the reviewer is a libertarian named John V. Walsh. This passage by Walsh made my eyes go wide: "Johnstone sees Clinton as both a product of her times – privileged child of the U.S. Empire, white, Wellesley, Yale, a dishonest and ultimately fired operative on the Watergate committee right out of law school...."

What a specious argument! Basically, it comes down to "Good school = bad person." Hillary's family was thoroughly middle class (her dad helped to manage a textile mill), so pretending that she grew up hobnobbing with the Rockefellers and the Astors is disingenuous.

But that Watergate remark seemed oddly familiar. The reference goes to the allegations of one Jerry Zeifman, who supervised a young Hillary Clinton when she went to work for the House Judiciary Committee. At first, Zeifman said that he had fired Hillary. Then he changed his story, claiming that he wished he had fired her. The fact that he could not maintain a consistent narrative on so basic a matter tells us much about Zeifman. (And the fact that she definitely was not fired tells us much about John V. Walsh.)

Dec. 18

Consortium news, Saudis’ Anti-Terror Window-dressing, Paul R. Pillar, Dec. 18, 2015. Faced with greater public awareness of its role promoting Sunni jihadist terror, Saudi Arabia has announced a 34-nation “anti-terrorism coalition,” but it may be just window-dressing for Riyadh’s anti-Shiite agenda, not a serious move against extremism, an issue addressed by ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar. 

Intercept, Clinton, Rubio, Cruz Receive Foreign Policy Advice From Same Consulting Firm, Lee Fang, Dec. 18, 2015. Consultants affiliated with a small Washington, D.C., firm called Beacon Global Strategies hold the unique privilege of providing high-profile foreign policy guidance to Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, among others. The bipartisan firm was founded in 2013 by former senior officials from the State Department, Department of Defense, and Central Intelligence Agency, and quickly had more than a dozen clients, primarily defense contractors, according to Defense News.

Philippe Reines and Andrew Shapiro, both considered part of Clinton’s inner circle of foreign policy advisers, are founders of the firm. Eric Edelman, a former Bush administration Defense Department official, is an advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies and a leading foreign policy adviser to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. Brian Hooks, another veteran Bush administration official and advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies, teamed up with Edelman to form a foreign policy prep effort for Republican candidates, called the John Hay Initiative. Hooks and Edelman have reportedly provided private briefings to help shape foreign policy ideas to candidates including Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham, encouraging them to take on hawkish positions.

Huffington Post, Chief Justice Roberts Made 'Human Error' In Overlooking Conflict Of Interest, Cristian Farias, Dec. 18, 2015. The head of the Supreme Court inadvertently participated in a case involving a John Robertscompany where he had a significant financial stake. Earlier this year, a Supreme Court justice took action in a case where he had an unintended conflict of interest. Actually, that happened twice this year. One of the incidents involved Justice Stephen Breyer, and you might have heard about that, because it led the court to make public a letter explaining the ordeal. The other incident involved Chief Justice John Roberts, and it just came to light this week.

Back in October, Roberts participated in the consideration of an appeal involving Texas Instruments -- a company in which Roberts or one of his family members holds stock worth up to $250,000, according to his latest financial disclosure form. Fix the Court, a nonprofit that lobbies for more transparency and accountability at the high court, first discovered Roberts' oversight and published the findings on its website Friday. Kathleen Arberg, the court's public information officer, told Bloomberg that Roberts' mistake was no more than "human error."

Washington Post, U.N. Security Council approves plan for Syrian peace process, Karen DeYoung, Dec. 19, 2015. But the resolution avoids details and papers over key differences among nations backing various combatants. The U.N. ­Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a peace process that is designed to end Syria’s civil war and to allow the international community to focus its attention more fully on defeating the Islamic State. The resolution gave Security Council backing to a process that begins with negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents to establish a transitional government that will write a new constitution and hold elections, all within 18 months.

The resolution instructs U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura to guide the government and opposition groups toward talks to begin as early as next month. Among the pitfalls he will have to navigate are the opposition’s insistence that no talks can be held with [Syrian President Barshar al-Assad’s] participation and Russia’s demand that Assad be included. The two sides and their international supporters also disagree about which opposition groups can take part in the negotiations, with Russia seeking to ban as “terrorists” Islamist forces who are among the strongest and most numerous opposition fighters.

Atlantic, Obama's Final Press Conference of 2015, Marina Koren, Dec. 18, 2015 (Transcript). President Obama spoke to reporters in the briefing room for just over an hour, starting with a list of his administration’s wins from this year: a national unemployment rate below 6 percent, the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage and Obamacare, the climate-change deal, and no end-of-year government shutdown. But the specter of foreign terrorist organizations and their growing reach looms large over the nation as it inches toward the new year, and the president has spent the last several weeks attempting to assuage a public whose fears of an attack have reached post-9/11 levels.

"You told the nation there’s no specific or credible threat of a similar attack, but how is it really possible to know?” one reporter asked Obama. “Aren’t similar plots going to be just as hard to detect beforehand?”

“You’re absolutely right,” replied Obama, who travels later Friday to California, where he’ll meet privately Friday with the families of the San Bernardino shooting, whose perpetrators were allegedly inspired by the Islamic State. He noted the difficulty of screening for self-radicalized individuals in the U.S.

“This is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with an organization like al-Qaeda that involved highly trained operatives who are working as cells or as a network,” Obama said.

The president reiterated his belief the United States will defeat the Islamic State, which it has been bombing for more than 18 months in Iraq and Syria. Obama dodged a question about whether he believes the presidency of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad will outlast his own, saying, “I think that Assad is going to have to leave the country to stop the bloodletting or for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way.”

Bernie Sanders OfficialWashington Post, Sanders aide accuses DNC of trying to ‘undermine’ campaign, John Wagner,, Abby Phillip and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 18, 2015. A messy public brawl erupted after the Democratic National Committee suspended the campaign’s access to key voter data for breaching records belonging to the Clinton campaign. Sanders responded by suing the DNC. The presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee Friday, arguing that the party had unfairly suspended the campaign’s access to key voter information.

The suit came hours after campaign manager Jeff Weaver acknowledged at a Washington news conference that Sanders staffers had improperly reviewed information gathered by rival Hillary Clinton earlier in the week. But he accused the DNC of overreacting to the breach by suspending the Sanders campaign’s ability to access the computer system containing information about Democratic-leaning voters, including data the campaign has gathered about its own supporters.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz rejected that allegation late Friday, alleging that Sanders staffers had exploited a software error to essentially “steal” data from Clinton’s campaign. Wasserman-Schultz said the party would not allow Sanders access to the critical database again until his campaign agreed to an independent audit of what happened.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz MedillOpEdNews, DNC Goes Full Attack on Sanders -- Further Rigging Primary, Cutting Access to Voter Database, Rob Kall, Dec. 18, 2015. They're saying it's because someone in the Sanders campaign accessed some Clinton campaign information. But what they're not saying is the reason this happened is the company the DNC hired to maintain and manage the database has repeatedly allowed lapses in the security"wall" between campaigns using the database. When it it happened, the data manager for the Sanders campaign peeked. When the Sanders team management found out, they fired him. This is an outrageous additional abuse of power by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (shown in a photo by Medill DC via Flickr).

Guardian, Sanders: Clinton's pursuit of 'regime change' in Libya helped rise of ISIS, Dan Roberts, Dec. 17, 2015. Vermont senator challenges Clinton’s foreign policy record and says her ties to Wall Street mean she would not take on ‘billionaire class’ (5:45 min). Bernie Sanders has accused Hillary Clinton of encouraging Islamic extremism in Libya, in a prelude to a Democratic debate on Saturday during which he is expected to go on the attack for the first time over the unintended consequences of the former secretary of state’s more interventionist foreign policy. Speaking to the Guardian in an extensive pre-debate interview, the senator from Vermont criticized Clinton for carelessly fomenting regime change in Libya “without worrying” about the ensuing instability that has helped Islamic State forces take hold in the country.

“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders said. “I voted against the war in Iraq ... Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya, with [Muammar] Gaddafi, without worrying, I think, about what happened the day after and the kind of instability and the rise of Isis that we have seen in Libya.”

Middle East Eye, Why the US pushes the illusory Syrian peace process, Gareth Porter, Dec. 18, 2015. The anti-Assad coalition led by the United States continues to stagger toward the supposed objective of beginning peace negotiations between the Syrian government and what has now been blessed as the politically acceptable “opposition.” The first such meeting was scheduled for 1 January, but no one on either side believes for a moment that any such negotiations are going to happen any time in the foreseeable future.

If it is so obvious that the Riyadh conference and the larger scheme for peace negotiations is not going to come to fruition, why has the Obama administration been pushing it? The explanation for what appears to be a lost cause can be inferred from the basic facts surrounding the administration’s Syria policy.

First, the administration adopted the objective of regime change in Syria in late 2011, at a time when it was convinced that the regime was on the ropes. And although it has partially backtracked from that aim by distinguishing between Assad and the institutional structure of the regime, it cannot back off the demand for Assad to step down without a humiliating admission of failure and major domestic political damage....

The obvious implication of these facts is that the ostensible push for a ceasefire and peace negotiations is a useful device for managing the political optics associated with Syria during the administration’s final year. If it is not questioned by media and political elites, the administration will be able to claim both that it is insisting on getting rid of Assad and at the same time moving toward a ceasefire and political settlement.  

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Doesn't Seem To Be Concerned That Vladimir Putin Kills Journalists, Sam Levine, Dec. 18, 2015. "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe." Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday seemed unconcerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin kills journalists who disagree with him. Trump was pressed on his support for Putin by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on "Morning Joe" Friday. The comments came a day after the Republican presidential hopeful and the Russian president publicly praised each other. Editor's note: The blog contains no sourcing for its commentary, only attack language.

BBC, Syria war: UN Security Council unanimously backs peace plan, staff report, Dec. 18, 2015. The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution outlining a peace process in Syria. The 15-member council reached rare agreement on the issue in a session in New York on Friday. The resolution endorses talks between the Syrian government and opposition in early January, as well as a ceasefire. The Syrian war, which is heading towards its fifth year, has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions more, the UN says. However, disagreements remain over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

OpEdNews, Syria Shatters Pentagon Dream, Pepe Escobar, Dec. 18, 2015. They look at the Syrian chessboard and as power projection goes, they see Russia comfortably settling down, with a serious land and air base, to conduct all sorts of operations across MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) in the near future. The Pentagon obviously never saw it coming. And that's just the beginning. Further on down the road there's bound to be increased military interaction between Russia, China and Iran across Southwest Asia. The Pentagon qualifies Russia, China and Iran -- the key nodes of Eurasia integration -- as threats. Amidst all the ambiguities, partners could not be a more delightfully diplomatic way to mask what is a stunning fact in the skies: with its current mix of sophisticated surface-to-air, sea-to-air and air-to-air defenses, from cruise missiles launched out of submarines to the S-400s, the de facto no-fly zone over Syria is now decided by Moscow -- not Washington and much less Ankara.

Those S-400s, by the way, will soon move up north around the vastly complex Aleppo theatre, as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) progressively gains ground. In the first half of 2016 we should be contemplating a situation where the S-400s will be targeting and covering the whole Turkish-Syrian border. This will be the moment when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will completely lose his marbles. Russia's air cover for the SAA advances -- and soon Syrian Kurd YPG advances -- is methodically preparing the terrain for the end of all Ankara's elaborate plans for a no-fly zone disguised as a safe zone, fully paid by the 3 billion euros disbursed by the EU to Turkey to settle Syrian refugees.

Dec. 17

Zero Hedge, Treason! Lawmaker Discovers It's Bad Idea To Accuse Erdogan Of Supplying Sarin Gas To ISIS. Tyler Durden, Dec. 17, 2015. Two weeks ago, CHP lawmaker Eren Erdem said he, like Moscow, will soon provide proof of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s role in the smuggling of Islamic State oil. "I have been able to establish that there is a very high probability that Berat Albayrak is linked to the supply of oil by the Daesh terrorists,” Erdem said, referencing Erdogan’s son-in-law who just happens to be the country’s energy minister. That wasn’t the first time Erdem has accused the Erdogan government of engaging in nefarious activities. Recall that back in October, Erdem and fellow CHP deputy Ali Seker claimed an investigation into Turkey's role in a 2013 sarin gas attack that killed more than a thousand civilians in Syria was being obstructed.

"The MKE [Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation] is also an actor that is mentioned in the investigation file. Here is the indictment. All the details about how sarin was procured in Turkey and delivered to the terrorists, along with audio recordings, are inside the file," Erdem said, at a press conference held on October 21.

"Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism," he continued.

As Today’s Zaman reported at the time, “...over 1,300 people were killed in the sarin gas attack in Ghouta and several other neighborhoods near the Syrian capital of Damascus, with the West quickly blaming the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Russia claiming it was a ‘false flag’ operation aimed at making US military intervention in Syria possible.”

On the heels of Erdem’s allegations surrounding Erdogan’s role in Islamic State’s illicit oil smuggling business, the lawmaker said he intends “to carry this investigation through to the end,” to which we replied: “..we can only hope that, for the sake of exposing the truth, ‘the end’ doesn’t end up being a Turkish jail cell, or worse.”

Well sure enough, Erdem now faces “treason” charges. Here’s Today’s Zaman again: "The Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation into Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Eren Erdem for 'treason,' following his claims on the Russia Today (RT) TV station [excerpted below] that radical groups used Turkey as a transit route for the shipment of sarin gas.

Turkish media reported on Wednesday that the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office will send a summary of proceedings to the Ministry of Justice on Thursday. If the summary of proceedings is sent to Parliament, the process for stripping Erdem of his parliamentary immunity will begin. Erdem might be prosecuted over treason if Parliament votes in favor of the removal of his parliamentary immunity. Cem Kucuk, a columnist at the pro-government Star daily, said on a program on Kanal 24 on Tuesday that Erdem's appearance on RT and his claims regarding sarin gas were “treason.” Kucuk argued that Erdem's immunity should be removed by Parliament for him to “pay for his deeds.” For his part, Erdem repeated his contention that he's the subject of a smear campaign. “The paramilitary organization Ottoman Hearths is sharing my address [on Twitter] and plans a raid [on my house]. I am being targeted with death threats because I am patriotically opposed to something that tramples on my country's prestige,” he says. The charges come just two days after Erdem gave the following interview to RT in which he says ISIS "received all necessary materials to produce deadly sarin gas via Turkey." He insists there are grounds to believe a cover up is in the offing. And so, just as Erdogan arrested Can Dundar, editor in chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s capital correspondent in Ankara on charges of spying and aiding a terrorist organization after they published video depicting an MIT truck transporting weapons to Syria, and just as Ankara arrested the generals who stopped the truck, AKP will now try a member of the opposition for treason. CNN, On board the warship Moskva: The naval power behind Russia's air war in Syria, Matthew Chance, Dec. 17, 2015. Several miles off the Syrian coast, the Moskva, a Russian warship laden with long-range guided missiles, is a formidable symbol of Russian naval might in this stretch of the eastern Mediterranean. I've been given rare access on board this 11,500-ton, 186-meter (610-foot) missile cruiser to witness the key role it plays in Russia's air war against jihadist rebels in Syria's grinding civil war. Equipped with a powerful air defense system, the Moskva has been situated off the Syrian city of Latakia to provide support to the Russian warplanes crisscrossing Syrian skies in an unrelenting schedule of sorties from the Hmeymim air base. In the two days I've been touring the Russian military operations in Syria, their jets have flown more than 100 sorties, destroyed 287 rebel strongholds and 40 oil installations, and killed more than 400 rebels, the Russian Defense Ministry says. The Moskva was deployed here, not far from Syria's border with Turkey, in the wake of Turkey's shootdown of a Russian Su-24 jet last month, bringing an extra layer of air defense to the Russian intervention in Syria's civil war. Russia has launched missiles from the sea during its Syrian campaign, although not from the Moskva. Not long ago, an international journalist being granted this kind of access to an active Russian warship would have been even more of a rarity. Washington Post, On regime change in Syria, the White House capitulates to Russia, Editorial board, Dec. 17, 2015. Russian planes are still bombing Western-backed forces in Syria every day and targeting hospitals, bakeries and humanitarian corridors. Moscow is still insisting that blood-drenched dictator Bashar al-Assad remain in power indefinitely while trying to exclude opposition groups from proposed peace negotiations by claiming they are terrorists. Nevertheless, Secretary of State John F. Kerry insisted Tuesday after meeting with Vladi­mir Putin that the Russian ruler and the Obama administration see Syria “in fundamentally the same way.” Unfortunately, that increasingly appears to be the case — and not because Mr. Putin has altered his position. Washington Post, U.S.-led airstrikes kill 180 Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq, Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris, Dec. 17, 2015. Islamist militants also launched four coordinated attacks against Kurdish forces in that area. The assault shows the group’s resilience despite a year-long air campaign by the United States and allies. American-led airstrikes killed at least 180 Islamic State fighters as local Kurdish forces­ scrambled to repel a bold, multi-pronged assault by the militants, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday. At least four coordinated attacks by more than 300 heavily armed militants kicked off the most intense fighting that northern Iraq has seen this year, illustrating the extremist group’s continued potency despite a year-long air campaign by the United States and its allies. New York Times, ISIS Carries Out First ‘Serious’ Attack in Northern Iraq in Months, U.S. Says, Michael R. Gordon, Dec. 17, 2015. Islamic State fighters conducted their most significant military operation in northern Iraq in more than five months when they mounted a three-pronged attack on Wednesday night north and east of Mosul, American officials said Thursday. The attack appeared to have been intended to show that the group is still a potent fighting force despite setbacks in Sinjar, Iraq, and in northern Syria. It may have also been intended to disrupt efforts by the American-led coalition to prepare for the eventual battle to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which was captured by the Islamic State in June 2014. The assault, which took place on the eve of a visit here by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Thursday, was beaten back by pesh merga fighters, as the Kurdish forces are known. Huffington Post, Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Is Behind Las Vegas Review-Journal Mystery Sale, Michael Calderone, Dec. 17, 2015. The newsroom is awash with fears about the casino mogul's intentions after his refusal to admit ownership. Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and Republican power broker who spent more than $100 million in the last election cycle, is behind the secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, according to the newspaper. The Review-Journal reported Wednesday night that Adelson didn't personally buy the paper, but had his son-in-law, Patrick Dumont, orchestrate the deal. Dumont is listed as a senior vice president at Las Vegas Sands Corp., of which Adelson is chairman and CEO. The paper, citing an anonymous source, reported Adelson funded the deal. The purchase gives Adelson control over Nevada's largest media outlet and raises questions about whether the newsroom will retain editorial independence when covering the gaming industry and politics, given his outsize influence in both worlds. Adelson is expected to spend upward of $100 million this election cycle, making his endorsement one of the most sought after among Republican hopefuls. Adelson has been said to be leaning toward Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the 2016 election, though he hasn't committed to any candidate. Washington Post, Putin: Donald Trump is 'a very flamboyant man, very talented,' Andrew Roth, Dec. 17, 2015. Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ranged from conflict zones to U.S. politics Thursday in a news conference in which he tried to close gaps with Washington over Syria, noted that Moscow remained engaged in Ukraine and gave a nod to Donald Trump as the “absolute leader” in the White House race. Putin — over three hours of questions and some overtime remarks — also touched on Russia’s battered economy and tense relations with Turkey over the downing of a Russian warplane. Many of Putin’s comments circled back to relations with the United States, including a bit of look-ahead musing on the White House race. Putin said Russia would work with “whomever the American voters choose,” but he singled out Trump. Washington Post, Martin Shkreli, CEO who jacked up drug price, is charged in unrelated fraud case, Renae Merle and Michael E. Miller, Dec. 17, 2015. Prosecutors allege that the drug firm executive, who notoriously raised the price of a lifesaving drug by more than 4,000 percent, misled investors about the financial health of a hedge fund he once managed. Wall Street Journal, IMF Chief Lagarde Ordered to Stand Trial in France, William Horobin, Dec. 17, 2015. Christine Lagarde referred for trial for alleged negligence over a decision she made as finance minister. A French judicial commission has ordered International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde to stand trial for alleged negligence over a decision she made as finance minister of France. Dec. 16 Wired, Congress Slips CISA Into a Budget Bill That’s Sure to Pass, Andy Greenberg, Dec. 16, 2015. Privacy advocates were aghast in October when the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21, leaving intact portions of the law they say make it more amenable to surveillance than actual security. Now, as CISA gets closer to the President’s desk, those privacy critics argue that Congress has quietly stripped out even more of its remaining privacy protections. In a late-night session of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new version of the “omnibus” bill, a massive piece of legislation that deals with much of the federal government’s funding. It now includes a version of CISA as well. Lumping CISA in with the omnibus bill further reduces any chance for debate over its surveillance-friendly provisions, or a White House veto. And the latest version actually chips away even further at the remaining personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought for in the version of the bill that passed the Senate. “They took a bad bill, and they made it worse,” says Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute. CISA had alarmed the privacy community by giving companies the ability to share cybersecurity information with federal agencies, including the NSA, “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” That means CISA’s information-sharing channel, ostensibly created for responding quickly to hacks and breaches, could also provide a loophole in privacy laws that enabled intelligence and law enforcement surveillance without a warrant. The latest version of the bill appended to the omnibus legislation seems to exacerbate that problem. It creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security. And it also changes when information shared for cybersecurity reasons can be used for law enforcement investigations. The earlier bill had only allowed that backchannel use of the data for law enforcement in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat,” potentially allowing the search of the data for any specific terms regardless of timeliness. Update 12/18/2015 12pm: The House and Senate have now passed the omnibus bill, including the new version of CISA. Montgomery Advertiser, End the Embarrassment and Pardon Don Siegelman, Josh Moon, Dec. 16, 2015. It doesn’t matter why Don Siegelman is in solitary confinement at a Louisiana federal prison. It doesn’t matter because Don Siegelman shouldn’t be in prison at all. Why this absolute travesty has been allowed to continue – and make no mistake, it is both Democrats and Republicans who have allowed it – is a mystery to me and to a number of attorneys and legal scholars from across the country. It is an embarrassment to the justice system. It is an embarrassment to the state. And it should be an embarrassment to every citizen. See also, Al.com, Here's why President Obama should pardon Don Siegelman, John Farmer, Dec. 24, 2014. Air Force Times, U.S. pulls F-15 fighter jets from Turkey, Aaron Mehta and Jeff Schogol, Dec. 16, 2015. The U.S. is withdrawing a dozen F-15 fighters from the key Turkish air base of Incirlik, less than two months after their arrival. The fighters — six F-15Cs from the 48th Fighter Wing and six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing — will be returning to Europe. The U.S. will still maintain a dozen A-10 Warthog close-air support fighters at the base, located about 100 miles from the border with Syria. The six F-15Cs from the 48th Fighter Wing arrived at Incirlik on Nov. 6 to help protect Turkish airspace. When the F-15s’ arrival was first announced, Pentagon officials emphasized having the capability located so close to Syria was vital for the fight against the Islamic State. However, on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis downplayed the removal of the fighters, noting that capability would still be in Europe and able to flow down if necessary. Slate, America’s New Know-Nothings, Fred Kaplan, Dec. 16, 2015. The Republican Party’s top presidential candidates proved that they know nothing about foreign policy. It was a grotesque debate, a travesty of rhetoric, a carnival of buncombe the likes of which even H.L. Mencken (who coined the last phrase) could not have imagined. I refer, of course, to Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, its entire two hours devoted to national security and terrorism, about which most of the nine major candidates proved they knew nothing, a fact that some tried to conceal by making stuff up. Donald Trump, the front-runner, was asked to elaborate on his proposal to shut down the Internet to keep ISIS from recruiting on social media. First, he affirmed that this was still his position, saying, “I don’t want them using our Internet” (as if the Internet has a nationality), then added that he was “not talking about closing the Internet,” just “those parts” of the Internet in Iran and Syria (as if each country occupied a sector, some digital latitude and longitude, of the World Wide Web). Sen. Ted Cruz, who seems to have signed a nonaggression pact with Trump, was asked about his hair-raising proposal to “carpet-bomb ISIS to oblivion.” Did this mean, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, that he’d kill thousands of civilians in towns like Raqqa, Syria? Cruz explained that he would “carpet-bomb where ISIS troops are, not a city” — ignoring (not knowing?) that ISIS formations mainly are in cities. They don’t hang around campfires at night in the desert, forming nifty targets for bombers flying above. InfoWars, Trump Tells Off Jeb Bush “You’re a Tough Guy… So Far I’m at 42% and You’re at 3,” Jim Hoft, Dec. 16, 2015 (Video). Jeb Bush and Donald Trump go at it… again. OpEdNews, You Want War? Russia is Ready for War, Pepe Escobar, Dec. 16, 2015. Pepe Escobar, shown in a file photo, is an independent geopolitical analyst. Nobody needs to read Zbigniew "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski's 1997 opus to know US foreign policy revolves around one single overarching theme: prevent -- by all means necessary -- the emergence of a power, or powers, capable of constraining Washington's unilateral swagger, not only in Eurasia but across the world. Syria is leading all these assumptions to collapse like a house of cards. "Tense" does not even begin to describe the current Russia-Turkey geopolitical tension, which shows no sign of abating. If Ankara opts for a suicide mission of knocking out yet another Su-24, or Su-34, Russia will simply clear the airspace all across the border via the S-400s. If Ankara under the cover of NATO responds by launching the Turkish Army on Russian positions, Russia will use nuclear missiles, drawing NATO into war not only in Syria but potentially also in Europe. Since mid-2014 the Pentagon has run all manner of war games -- as many as 16 times, under different scenarios -- pitting NATO against Russia. All scenarios were favorable to NATO. All simulations yielded the same victor: Russia. And that's why Erdogan's erratic behavior actually terrifies quite a few real players from Washington to Brussels. The Pentagon is very much aware of the tremendous heavy metal Russia may unleash if provoked to the limit by someone like Erdogan. Let's roll out an abridged list. Russia can use the mighty SS-18 -- which NATO code names "Satan"; each "Satan" carries 10 warheads, with a yield of 750 to 1000 kilotons each, enough to destroy an area the size of New York State. The Topol M ICBM is the world's fastest missile at 21 Mach (16,000 miles an hour); against it, there's no defense. Launched from Moscow, it hits New York City in 18 minutes, and L.A. in 22.8 minutes. Three Alleged ISIS Smuggling Routes (in blue) from Central Syria Via NATO-member Turkey (Russian military chart) Infowars, Obama Concedes to Putin After NATO’s Support of ISIS Exposed, Kit Daniels, Dec. 16, 2015. White House stops demanding Assad's removal after news reports reveal West backing ISIS. The Obama administration is no longer publicly asking for “regime change” in Syria after multiple news reports revealed how NATO and its allies have spent years supporting Islamic jihadists to try and topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he accepted Russia’s request that the U.S. let the Syrian people decide Assad’s political fate. “The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry told reporters on Tuesday after meeting President Vladimir Putin. This is a huge concession from the Obama administration considering the president spent the past several years stating “Assad must go.” But why this sudden shift in public policy? Well, Czech President Milos Zeman recently stated that Turkey is friendly to the Islamic State, and there’s truth to that. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said nearly the exact same thing. A major scandal erupted in Turkey last year when Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was caught shipping arms to ISIS, then attempted to cover it up by ordering a media blackout. Not long after, the Obama administration signed an agreement with Turkey to openly train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels, but virtually all of the rebels fighting Assad in Syria have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State since at least 2013. RT, Washington's 'Plan B' in Syria: Renewed military intervention to oust Assad? Finian Cunningham, Dec. 16, 2015. US top diplomat John Kerry appeared to offer cooperation during lengthy talks in Moscow this week with President Vladimir Putin. Kerry said that US policy was not trying to isolate Russia, neither was it seeking regime change in Syria. Washington and its NATO partners have been seeking regime change against Russia’s long-time Syria ally going back to 2007 during the George W Bush presidency. The whole foreign-backed war in the Arab country – resulting in 250,000 deaths and millions of refugees over the past five years – has been orchestrated for the precise purpose of destabilizing Syria. Like Kerry’s coy claim that the US is not trying “to isolate Russia as a matter of policy,” the bottom line is that Washington has imposed unilateral economic sanctions on Russia as a result of provable US regime change in Ukraine in February 2014, and cajoled its European allies to follow suit. Withdrawing unilaterally from arms control treaties and expanding NATO forces on Russian territory are hardly the actions of a party “not seeking isolation” of Moscow. Business Insider, The epicenter of the Syrian war is shifting — and it could mean 'a near total defeat' for Turkey's Syria policy, Natasha Bertrand, Dec. 16, 2015. Russian airstrikes across northern Syria have been steadily shifting the epicenter of the war toward a corridor north of Aleppo, through which Turkey smuggles aid and supplies to the rebel groups it supports. A stepped-up Russian bombing campaign in the Bayirbucak region of northwest Syria, near the strategically important city of Azaz, has primarily targeted the Turkey-backed Turkmen rebels and civilians — and the Turkish aid convoys that supply them. As a result, Turkey's policy in Syria of bolstering rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime — and establishing a "safe zone" for displaced Syrians that might hinder the regime's efforts to take Aleppo — is quickly unraveling. Another important component of Turkey's strategy in Syria is also at risk of collapse as a result of Russia's campaign in the north — namely, restricting the movements of the Kurdish YPG, with whom Turkey has clashed, along the Turkish-Syrian border. Guardian, Now the truth emerges: how the US fueled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq, Seumas Milne, Dec. 16, 2015. The sectarian terror group won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place. The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting. The prosecution abandoned the case, apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition. Infowars, Cruz Remark During Debate Reveals Surveillance State Has Grown, not Shrunk, Kurt Nimmo, Cruz let slip something the government considers secret. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr is miffed at Senator Ted Cruz. During an exchange with opponent Marco Rubio Tuesday night Cruz said a new law he supported increased the number of phones monitored by the government. “What [Rubio] knows is that the old program covered 20% to 30% of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100%,” Cruz said. “That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.” Within minutes of Cruz making the remark Burr spokeswoman Becca Glover Watkins tweeted: "On Wednesday Burr engaged in damage control. He said the numbers Cruz mentioned were incorrect." In other words, the snooping of private telephones in violation of the Fourth Amendment is somewhat less than Cruz asserted, if Mr. Burr can be believed. Regardless of the real number — and if revelations by Snowden and others are any indication, the surveillance state is far larger than the government admits—the unconstitutional violation of privacy has produced a totalitarian state, as the former highly placed intelligence official with the NSA William Binney has pointed out. BBC, Italian masonic leader Licio Gelli dies aged 96, Staff report, Dec. 16, 2015. Gelli was sentenced to 12 years in prison but never served significant prison time. An Italian financier who was linked to several of the country's most troubling episodes has died at the age of 96. Licio Gelli was the grandmaster of a notorious masonic group, Propaganda Two (P2), which included prominent Italian politicians and military figures. P2 was exposed in 1981 and accused of conspiring with right-wing extremists and the mafia to undermine governments. Gelli was born in 1919 and first became involved in politics as part of the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini. He later volunteered to fight for Gen Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and went on to join neo-fascist parties. He joined the freemasons in the 1960s and founded the P2 lodge in 1970. A list of alleged members was later discovered by Italian police -- and included one Silvio Berlusconi, the future prime minister. Gelli was sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud linked to the collapse of a bank with ties to the Vatican -- but never served significant prison time. The bank's boss Roberto Calvi - known as "God's banker" for his ties to the Vatican - was found hanged under a bridge in London in 1982, and prosecutors later said they believed he had been murdered. Gelli was also found guilty of obstructing justice during investigations into the 1980 explosion at the Bologna train station which killed 85 people. Italy has yet to discover the truth behind many of the mysteries he left behind, says the BBC's James Reynolds in Rome. Dec. 15 Washington Post, Debate’s focal point: Who can keep the country safe? Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker, Dec. 15, 2015. The mood was dire to the point of being apocalyptic, but it presented candidates with an opportunity to draw sharp contrasts in how they would eradicate threats from home-grown enemies or the Islamic State. Huffington Post, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Everything is terrifying and we're all going to die, Nick Wing and Nick Baumann, Dec. 15, 2015. Fear and terror stole the Republican debate stage on Tuesday night. In the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Americans see terrorism as the top issue facing the U.S. And if people were already scared, watching 13 presidential candidates spar over who is best equipped to defend the nation against terrorism probably didn't help. "We have entered World War III," former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania declared less than a minute into the undercard debate. His proclamation would set the tone for more than four hours in which candidates spared no effort to paint the threat from the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other jihadists as existential. "We're at war folks, they're not trying to steal your car, they're trying to kill us all," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "The next 9/11" is "coming soon," he warned later. Tax Wall Street Party, GOP Debates: A Grotesque Parade Of Warmongers Ready To Start World War Three Over Trifles With Appalling Nonchalance, Webster G. Tarpley (shown in file photo), Dec. 15, 2015. Candidates Willing To Slaughter Children None Of These Creatures Must Ever Gain Access To Nuclear Button Intense Competition For Role Of Dictator In GOP’s Coming Police State Only Winners Are Neocon 'Strangeloves' Who Tell Bozo Candidates What To Say Washington Post, GOP candidates challenge Russia’s role in war in Syria, David A. Fahrenthold, Dec. 15, 2015. Two of the candidates in the “undercard” portion of Tuesday night’s GOP debate said they would shoot down Russian planes in the airspace over Syria, if America set up a “no-fly zone” there and Russia violated it. “The most important and effective thing you can do to a bully is punch ‘em in the face,” said former New York governor George Pataki, after calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a bully. If Russian aircraft violate airspace that America has shut off, “either us or the Turks should shoot ‘em down, to keep our word.” Irish Central, “Black Irish” Ted Cruz may face birther questions of his own, James O'Shea, Dec. 15, 2015. Texas Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada to Canadian citizens, which may become a major issue as he runs for president. Senator Ted Cruz, the right-wing Republican from Texas, is the new darling of the GOP, beating Donald Trump handsomely in Iowa polls and closing in quickly in other key states. But Cruz was born in Canada so he cannot run for president, right? Wrong. It appears his Irish American mother can make him eligible. But some claim his mother,Eleanor Darragh a Canadian citizen when Cruz was born, never showed her US birth certificate. While Ted Cruz may be regarded as Hispanic because of his Cuban father, the fact is that he owes his eligibility for a White House run to his mother, Eleanor Darragh. The American Conservative, Trump & Weimar America, Rod Dreher, Dec. 15, 2015. UK conservative columnist Peter Hitchens openly despises the National Front (FN) in France, but he says that the mainstream media are taking the wrong lesson from the Front’s loss Sunday in the French elections. Hitchens points out that even though the FN did not win the presidency of any region, the “Maginot Line” against them held only because the woebegone Socialist Party withdrew its candidates from regions where the FN was riding high, and urged its voters to vote for Sarkozy’s Republican Party, as the only effective means of stopping the FN. It worked. Nevertheless, the FN represents one-third of the French electorate. As Hitchens points out, if the only way the Establishment can keep the FN from taking power is by showing itself as essentially the same party, it only confirms the FN’s diagnosis of the Establishment’s corruption....David Frum's Atlantic article is quite good: The Atlantic, America's Immigration Challenge, David Frum, Dec. 4, 2015. Donald Trump’s noisy complaints that immigration is out of control are literally true. Nobody is making conscious decisions about who is wanted and who is not, about how much immigration to accept and what kind to prioritize — not even for the portion of U.S. migration conducted according to law, much less for the larger portion that is not. Nor is there much understanding of what has happened after it has happened. A simple question like, “How many immigrants are in prison?” turns out to be extraordinarily hard to answer. Poor information invites excessive fears, which are then answered with false assurances and angry accusations. AP via Yahoo, Assad can stay, for now: Kerry accepts Russian stance, Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper, Dec. 15, 2015. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday accepted Russia's long-standing demand that President Bashar Assad's future be determined by his own people, as Washington and Moscow edged toward putting aside years of disagreement over how to end Syria's civil war. "The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change," Kerry told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting President Vladimir Putin. A major international conference on Syria would take place later this week in New York, Kerry announced. Kerry reiterated the U.S. position that Assad, accused by the West of massive human rights violations and chemical weapons attacks, won't be able to steer Syria out of more than four years of conflict. But after a day of discussions with Assad's key international backer, Kerry said the focus now is "not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad." Rather, it is on facilitating a peace process in which "Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria." Kerry's declarations crystallized the evolution in U.S. policy on Assad over the last several months, as the Islamic State group's growing influence in the Middle East has taken priority. President Barack Obama first called on Assad to leave power in the summer of 2011, with "Assad must go" being a consistent rallying cry. Later, American officials allowed that he wouldn't have to resign on "Day One" of a transition. Now, no one can say when Assad might step down. Cannon Fire, Assad is more popular in Syria than Obama and Hillary are in the United States, Joseph Cannon, Dec. 15, 2015. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to countenance any solution to the Syrian civil war in which the elected, lawful, secular leader Bashar Assad is not removed from office. Despite this talk of democracy, the White House insists that Bashar Assad must not allowed to participate in any future election. Why? For one simple reason: Assad would win. A new poll proves the point. The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition. Bashar Assad is the most popular man in Syria, according to ORB international, a credible UK polling organization whose clients have included the BBC and the Conservative party. The persistence of the myth that Assad lacks support calls to mind an article written by Jonathan Steele in the British newspaper the Guardian on 17 January 2012, less than one year into the war. Under a lead titled, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know it from western media,” Steele wrote: Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news? Especially as the finding would go against the dominant narrative about the Syrian crisis, and the media consider the unexpected more newsworthy than the obvious. Alas, not in every case. When coverage of an unfolding drama ceases to be fair and turns into a propaganda weapon, inconvenient facts get suppressed. So it is with the results of a recent YouGov Siraj poll…ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go. Let's take matters further. If Assad has a 47% approval rating in Syria, how does his popularity compare to Barack Obama's? According to the most recent Gallup poll, Obama's favorability rating is exactly the same as Assad's: 47%. Gallup's poll offers the highest number I could find. If we average out these findings, we may fairly say that Barack Obama's number is worse than Bashar Assad's. And what of Hillary Clinton's approval ratings? Here's a Gallup poll from last September: Currently, 41% of U.S. adults say they have a favorable opinion of the Democratic front-runner, while 51% hold an unfavorable view. RT via Russia Insider, NATO Is Going for Bust in Syria, Pepe Escobar, Dec. 15, 2015. The new plan is Northern Syria controlled by anti-Assad 'moderate rebels' (dominated by al Qaeda) with ISIS beaten but tolerated and solidified in western Iraq. NATO’s Syria intervention is of course absolutely illegal. UN Security Council resolution 2249 does not fall under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. Yet once again creative language – French-style rhetorical artifice - blurs the non-justification of military might by conveying the impression the UNSC approves it. Resolution 2249 is yet another case of international law reduced to rubble. For these – sporadic - UK and French air strikes, covered by the pretext of hitting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, were never authorized by Damascus, and the UNSC was not even consulted. Russia, on the other hand, has been fully authorized by Damascus. Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, practicing with his wife in 1928. Credit The New York Times New York Times, Basketball’s Birth, in James Naismith’s Own Spoken Words, Richard Sandomir, Dec. 15, 2015. James Naismith, basketball’s inventor, arrived in New York City in early 1939 with three items on his agenda. He gave a speech to basketball writers in which he denounced modern trends in his sport like the zone defense, which he said stalled the game. He attended a college basketball doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, where he shook his head at the rough play he saw in a Syracuse victory over Manhattan. And he appeared on a radio show to recall the birth of basketball, in 1891. That short interview, on the upbeat program “We the People,” may be the only existing recording of Naismith’s voice. But it surfaced from the WOR-AM archives only as Michael J. Zogry conducted research for a book about the influence of religion on Naismith’s life. Huffington Post, Lawmakers Finally Reach Deal On Spending Bill, Tax Package, Laura Barron-Lopez and Matt Fuller, Dec. 15, 2015. The sweeping agreement will lift a ban on crude oil exports and permanently fund a 9/11 health program. Reuters, Ex-Adelphia CEO seeks prison release due to cancer, Nate Raymond, Dec. 15, 2015. Former Adelphia Communications Corp CEO John Rigas, who is serving a 12-year sentence for his role in a fraud that led to the cable company's collapse, is seeking release from prison due to his "precipitously deteriorating health." Lawyers for Rigas, who was convicted in 2004 for participating in a massive securities fraud, filed papers in federal court in Manhattan on Friday seeking his release on bail due to a "terminal" resurgence of cancer. Rigas' lawyers have been seeking to overturn his conviction due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct, and say forcing him to remain in custody any further would mean any ruling in his favor would render it a "pyrrhic (and posthumous) victory." The prison in Pennsylvania where Rigas is incarcerated is preparing to grant him a compassionate release, the lawyers wrote. But that process could take six months, more time than he may have, they said. Late Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered prosecutors to respond by Dec. 22. Politico, Reid suspects Adelson is Las Vegas paper's mysterious buyer, Burgess Everett, Dec. 15, 2015. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) suspects that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is the secretive buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he told reporters on Tuesday. Adelson is one of the most influential Republican donors in the country and presidential candidates have been jockeying for months for his support. The wealthy Nevadan is a major benefactor for pro-Israeli causes and politicians. The new buyer of Nevada's largest newspaper will have significant influence in the state during the Nevada caucuses in February that could help determine who the eventual GOP nominee is. The paper was purchased by a undisclosed corporation for $140 million this month. Washington Post, One word explains the collapse of Ben Carson, Jonathan Capehart, Dec. 15, 2015. If you want to know the reason behind Ben Carson’s tumble in the polls, you need only look at what propelled him there in the first place: race. Earlier this fall, I argued that many Republicans rallied around the famed neurosurgeon because of their eagerness to show that they have their own brilliant black man to support. Their answer to President Obama. The NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released late October had Carson (29 percent) as the first choice of registered voters who said they would vote in the Republican primary. The Post-ABC News poll last month put Carson in a commanding second place at 22 percent. But if your popularity is largely built on race, if you’re going to be “their black guy” in the GOP, you have no margin for error. You have to be damned near perfect in the eyes of the overwhelmingly white party to hold its support. And Carson hasn’t been since that last poll. His support now sits at 11 percent. Henry County News (AL), Former Prosecutor Lane Contradicts Police Chief and District Attorney, Confirms Complaints of Planting Drugs and Fire Ant Torture By Dothan Police, Jon B. Carroll, Dec. 15, 2015. Embattled Police Chief Steve Parrish admitted member of a neoconfederate white supremacist group. Community pressure is building after a meeting in which hundreds gathered at a small Pentecostal Church demanding that Dothan Police Chief, Steve Parrish, and District Attorney, Doug Valeska, be removed from office and be prosecuted. Earlier today, at a City Commission meeting, they demanded the district attorney and the police chief’s immediate resignation. This occurred in light of their roles in an alleged cover up of an internal affairs investigation that revealed a narcotics team supervised by Parrish planted drugs and weapons on young black men for years. Society of Professional Journalists, Journalists ask White House for commitment to openness, Paul Fletcher, Dec. 15, 2015. A delegation representing more than 50 journalism and open government organizations met with Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary, today at the White House, urging greater openness and transparency from the federal government. Four journalists from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and the Legal Counsel for the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) met with Earnest for about an hour to discuss communications policies, the use of Public Information Officers (PIOs) during interviews, anonymous background briefings, prohibitions against staff members speaking to reporters without notifying PIOs, and other policies that prevent information from flowing to the public. “We asked that the president renew his commitment to transparency in government. The goal of this meeting is to try to bring about a culture change that has pervaded government for several decades,” said SPJ President Paul Fletcher. “We further asked for a clear statement that government employees are free to speak without interference to members of the press and public. Current policies, we believe, undermine democracy and public trust in our government. We asked for the Obama Administration to reverse that trend.” "This Administration isn't just committed to the principle of transparency, we've committed to engaging advocates and journalists to discuss legitimate ideas that advance it. We look forward to continuing this conversation," Earnest said. The meeting follows at least five years of work done by various journalism organizations to study government transparency and the role PIOs or “minders” play in relaying important information to the American public. President Obama promised during his campaign to have the most transparent administration in the White House’s history. But journalists say it has become increasingly more difficult to speak to federal agency employees, conduct interviews and obtain information that should be readily available to the general public. Dec. 14 OpEdNews, Syria: The Deadly Game of Ignorant Fools, Peter Kellow, When Turkey sees its natural, non-Sunni enemy in Assad team up with its ancient enemy in Russia, the advantage of siding with ISIS is all too evident. Hence, its purchase of ISIS oil. Hence its downing of the Russia fighter. ISIS is very strongly Sunni and the sworn enemy of Shiites and so for Turkey to have a Sunni ally on its border as a buffer between Assad in Syria and the Shiite dominated Iraq is clearly to its advantage. Turkey is out of control. The days of it being a slightly wayward, but non-threatening ally, eager to participate in the fruits of EU membership seem a long time ago. We could yet find ourselves in a deadly military pact with the new caliphate pretender confronting not only the whole Middle East but Russia as well. The very strong commitment we give by signing the military pact of NATO will drag us in on Turkey's side whether we like it or not. USA Today, Russian airstrikes are bolstering Syrian dictator's grip on power, Jim Michaels, Dec. 14, 2015. Russian airstrikes aimed at rebel groups in Syria have strengthened the regime of Bashar Assad, undercutting President Obama's hope of using diplomatic pressure to force the Syrian dictator’s removal. The Russian airstrikes, which began more than two months, have helped Syrian ground forces retake territory and consolidate power for Moscow's long-time ally Assad, who had been suffering defeats as Syria's civil war drags on well into its fifth year. Reuters, Biden, in call with Turkey PM, urges cooperation with Iraq, Susan Heavey, Dec. 14, 2015. Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R), accompanied by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaks to the media before their meeting in Istanbul November 21, 2014. Reuters/Murad Sezer U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the reported withdrawal of Turkish troops from a camp in northern Iraq and urged Turkey to continue trying to cooperate with Baghdad, the White House said on Monday. In a call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Biden said the move of Turkish troops from Camp Bashiqa was "an important step to de-escalate recent tensions," the White House said in a statement. Biden reiterated that Iraq's government must consent to any foreign military presence there. "The Vice President encouraged the Turkish government to continue its dialogue with Baghdad on additional measures to improve relations between Turkey and Iraq," it said. Politico, Corker acknowledges millions in 'filing errors,' Nick Gass, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker had not properly disclosed millions of dollars in income from real estate, hedge funds and other investments until last Friday, according to a Sunday evening report from The Wall Street Journal. The Republican senator said these were oversights he has since corrected. Corker, who is the third-ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, did not properly disclose at least $2 million in income from investments in three separate hedge funds in Tennessee, as well as millions of dollars in income from commercial real estate investments because of an accounting error, and millions of dollars in various other assets and income from transactions. Guardian, Washington Post bids farewell to office where it broke Watergate, David Smith, Dec. 14, 2014. Journalists gather for ceremony to mark decommissioning of building where newspaper uncovered political scandal that forced President Nixon to resign. The Washington Post’s building was being "decommissioned” after 43 years and will soon be demolished. By Monday, about 1,500 staff and 4,000 crates will have moved a few blocks across the US capital to a new, leaner office designed for the digital age, in which the Post claims to be enjoying a renaissance. Like many purpose-built newspaper headquarters, the building at 1150 15th Street NW has served its time. Naked Capitalism, Labor Advisory Committee Report on TPP Synthesizes Everything Wrong About the Trade Deal, David Dayen, Dec. 14, 2015. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office has been maligned for its network of Trade Advisory Committees, allegedly “independent” counsel for trade agreements. The Washington Post did the best work on the Advisory Committees back in February of last year, showing that 85 percent of the cleared advisors (meaning cleared to read the text of trade agreements as they are being negotiated) either worked directly for private industries or their trade groups. The Labor Advisory Committee: Its 19 members are all the heads of major labor unions. And like all Advisory Committees, they are required by law to write a report to Congress expressing their opinions about any finalized trade agreement. That means we now have this 121-page document, giving labor’s full argument against the TPP, from the people who have been following it from the inside for several years. This was an argument that labor’s cleared advisors have been prevented from making. Because of the secretive nature of trade talks, those opposed to the deal fight with one hand tied behind their backs, unable to speak about what they knew about the agreement. And they are at the mercy of USTR’s deliberate, dissent-crushing rules. We have labor’s side of the story. It gets off to quite a start in the first words of the executive summary: On behalf of the millions of working people we represent, we believe that the TPP is unbalanced in its provisions, skewing benefits to economic elites while leaving workers to bear the brunt of the TPP’s downside. The TPP is likely to harm the U.S. economy, cost jobs, and lower wages. This document puts all of the arguments against TPP in one accessible, readable place, and if you’re interested in really understanding what this agreement would do, this is a great place to start. I hasten to TPP may actually be on life support right now, after Mitch McConnell said it had no shot of passing Congress before the 2016 elections. That’s mainly because it doesn’t roll out the red carpet for corporations enough for his liking. But if you want to know what a left-wing critique of TPP looks like, this report is a great place to start. Dec. 13 Telesur, Bush Military Official: The Empire's Ship is Sinking, Abby Martin, Dec. 13, 2015. Abby Martin interviews retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former national security advisor to the Reagan administration, who spent years as an assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell during both Bush administrations. Today, he is honest about the unfixable corruption inside the establishment and the corporate interests driving foreign policy. Washington Post, Cruz campaign credits psychological data and analytics for its rising success, Tom Hamburger, Dec. 13, 2015. As Cecil Stinemetz walked up to a gray clapboard house in suburban Des Moines last week wearing his “Cruz 2016” cap, a program on his iPhone was determining what kind of person would answer the door. Would she be a “relaxed leader”? A “temperamental conservative”? Maybe even a “true believer”? Nope. It turned out that Birdie Harms, a 64-year-old grandmother, part-time real estate agent and longtime Republican, was, by the Ted Cruz campaign’s calculations, a “stoic traditionalist.” The outreach to Harms and others like her is part of a months-long effort by the Cruz campaign to profile and target potential supporters, an approach that campaign officials believe has helped propel the senator from Texas to the top tier among Republican presidential candidates in many states, including Iowa, where he is in first place, according to two recent polls. It’s also a multimillion-dollar bet that such efforts still matter in an age of pop-culture personalities and ­social-media messaging. Cruz, a critic of excessive government data collection, has been notably aggressive about gathering personal information for his campaign. Some of the data comes from typical sources, such as voters’ consumer habits and Facebook posts. Some is homegrown, such as a new smartphone app that keeps supporters in touch while giving the campaign the ability to scrape their phones for additional contacts. Dec. 11 Ben Carson for President, Dr. Ben Carson Releases Statement on Party Boss Insider Meeting Reported in Washington Post, Dec. 11, 2015. Today, Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and 2016 GOP presidential candidate, released the following statement: If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning [GOP preparing for contested convention]. If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party. I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it. This process is the one played out by our party. If the powerful try to manipulate it, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next summer may be the last convention. I am prepared to lose fair and square, as I am sure is Donald. But I will not sit by and watch a theft. I intend on being the nominee. If I am not, the winner will have my support. If the winner isn’t our nominee then we have a massive problem. My campaign is about ‘We the People’ not ‘They the Powerful.’ Justice Integrity Project Exclusive, Siegelman released from solitary confinement, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 11, 2015. JIP has learned that federal Bureau of Prison authorities are releasing former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from solitary confinement, where he has been held virtually incommunicado since mid-October with no explanation. His highly irregular punishment is suspected to stem from his attempted response to a radio host who asked Siegelman about the status of his case after Siegelman spoke earlier during a 15-minute authorized call about general issues involving prisons. Siegelman supporters say there is no rule against prisoners talking about their own case and that the punishment typifies the government's abusive practices against Alabama's last Democratic governor. Siegelman is being held in the federal prison in Oakdale, LA following his conviction for reappointing in 1999 HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a state board. Reuters via NBC News, Ukraine Lawmaker Manhandles Prime Minister, Sparking Parliament Brawl, Staff report, Dec. 11 2015. Fighting broke out among members of Ukraine's ruling coalition in parliament on Friday after a member of President Petro Poroshenko's bloc physically picked up Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and pulled him from the podium. Yatseniuk was defending his embattled government's record when lawmaker Oleh Barna walked over to him, presenting him sarcastically with a bunch of red roses. Barna then grabbed him around the waist and groin, lifting him off his feet and dragging him from the rostrum. Members from Yatseniuk's People Front party waded in, pushing Barna and throwing punches. Lawmakers from Poroshenko's bloc joined the fray and an angry brawl ensued for several minutes before deputies returned to their seats. The incident exposed deep divisions in the pro-Europe coalition that have fueled speculation the government could fall even as Ukraine's Western backers warn that time is running out for Kiev to make good on its promises to root out endemic corruption and cronyism. Strategic Culture Foundation, CIA-Islamic Jihadist Alliance Against Russia is 63 Years’ Old, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 11, 2015. Author, political commentator and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, shown in a file photo, this month was elected president of the Tampa Bay Press Club. The dalliance of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency with Islamic jihadist forces is nothing new. Today, the CIA provides weapons, training, and other support to jihadist-aligned domestic Syrian and foreign mercenary forces attempting to overthrow the government of the secular Syrian president, Bashar al Assad. Among the recipients of CIA largesse are jihadist opposition forces in Syria that include Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda, the Khorasan Group, the Levant Front, and more. All of these groups have had alliances with or are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and have sworn fealty to ISIL’s elf-proclaimed caliphate. The use of Uzbek mercenaries by the CIA is almost as old as the American spy agency itself. In fact, CIA-Uzbek jihadist cooperation dates back some 63 years. According to its own formerly TOP SECRET Central Intelligence Bulletin, dated December 4, 1952, during the waning days of the Harry Truman administration, the CIA embarked on a program to foment nationalism tinged with jihadism among the Uzbek tribes of northern Afghanistan in order that it might spill across the border into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, a constituent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This 1952 CIA policy of coopting Muslim radicals means that the current attempt by such anti-Russian U.S. official and quasi-official intelligence policy makers, including former Jimmy Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, hedge fund tycoon George Soros, and CIA director John Brennan, to bring about a radical Muslim destabilization of the Russian Federation is merely a continuation of past practice. Presently, this cabal of American Russophobes see a victory by jihadist forces in Syria, and ultimately in Iraq, will spill over into Russia’s southern Caucasus region where jihadists have already been active, to central Asia. New Yorker, Shutting Down Conversations About Rape at Harvard Law, Jeannie Suk, Dec. 11, 2015. Professor Suk teaches at Harvard Law School and is one of 19 professors at the school who have signed a statement criticizing the documentary “The Hunting Ground” for its portrayal of a sexual-assault case. This is a piece on a subject about which I may soon be prevented from publishing, depending on how events unfold. Last month, near the time that CNN broadcast the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which focuses on four women who say their schools neglected their claims of sexual assault, I joined eighteen other Harvard Law School professors in signing a statement that criticized the film’s “unfair and misleading” portrayal of one case from several years ago. Guardian, Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users, Harry Davies, Dec. 11, 2015. Exclusive: Documents reveal donor-funded US startup embedded in Republican’s campaign paid UK university academics to collect psychological profiles on potential voters. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is using psychological data based on research spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission, to boost his surging White House run and gain an edge over Donald Trump and other Republican rivals, the Guardian can reveal. A little-known data company, now embedded within Cruz’s campaign and indirectly financed by his primary billionaire benefactor, paid researchers at Cambridge University to gather detailed psychological profiles about the US electorate using a massive pool of mainly unwitting US Facebook users built with an online survey. As part of an aggressive new voter-targeting operation, Cambridge Analytica – financially supported by reclusive hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer – is now using so-called “psychographic profiles” of US citizens in order to help win Cruz votes, despite earlier concerns and red flags from potential survey-takers. Documents seen by the Guardian have uncovered longstanding ethical and privacy issues about the way academics hoovered up personal data by accessing a vast set of US Facebook profiles, in order to build sophisticated models of users’ personalities without their knowledge. In the race to advance data-driven electioneering strategies pioneered by successive Obama campaigns, Cruz has turned to Cambridge Analytica for its unparalleled offering of psychological data based on a treasure trove of Facebook “likes”, allowing it to match individuals’ traits with existing voter datasets, such as who owned a gun. Analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings shows Cruz’s campaign has paid Cambridge Analytica at least $750,000 this year. The “behavioural microtargeting” company has also received around $2.5m over the past two years from conservative Super Pacs to which Mercer or members of his family have donated. In an interview with the Guardian last month, Cruz said his funding and outreach apparatus “is very much the Obama model – a data-driven, grassroots-driven campaign – and it is a reason why our campaign is steadily gathering strength”. Cruz is increasingly seen as a leading Republican contender, uniting factions within the party beyond his evangelical and Tea Party base. In Iowa – the first state to vote in the presidential primary, in less than two months – the outspoken Texas senator dethroned Trump in a poll for the first time this week as the mogul became ensnared in yet more controversy. Dec. 10 Montgomery Advertiser, Son: Don Siegelman held in solitary in La. prison, Brian Lyman, Dec. 10, 2015. Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has been held in mostly solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison since mid-October, his son said Thursday. “He is not allowed to see any family or speak to anyone including family,” said Joseph Siegelman, serving as one of the former governor's defense attorneys, in a phone interview. “He is completely and utterly in isolation.” Siegelman served as governor of Alabama from 1999 to 2003. A jury convicted Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy of bribery charges. The former governor, 69, is scheduled for release on Aug. 8, 2017, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. He has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Siegelman's motion for a new trial in May. The family has not been given a reason for the confinement, Joseph Siegelman said, though they said Siegelman was moved to solitary while being interviewed on a radio show about criminal justice reform. Washington Post, GOP preparing for contested convention, Robert Costa and Tom Hamburger, Dec. 10, 2015. Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as Donald Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race. More than 20 of them convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, where the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting. Several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said. Attendees included Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee; Rob Simms, his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee; Ron Kaufman, an RNC committeeman and Mitt Romney confidant; and pollster Linda DiVall. Whit Ayres, an adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Vin Weber, an ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, also were there, among others. New York Times, Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll, Jonathan Martin and Dalia Sussman, Dec. 10, 2015. Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, a gnawing sense of dread that has helped lift Donald J. Trump to a new high among Republican primary voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. In the aftermath of attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris and in San Bernardino, Calif., a plurality of the public views the threat of terrorism as the top issue facing the country. A month ago, only 4 percent of Americans said terrorism was the most important problem; now, 19 percent say it is, above any other issue. Mr. Trump, who has called for monitoring mosques and even barring Muslims from entering the United States, has been the clear beneficiary of this moment of deep anxiety. New York Daily News, Donald Trump acted confused in video deposition when asked about former senior advisor, a convicted felon with Mafia ties, Dan Good, Dec. 10, 2015. A newly-revealed video deposition shows real-estate mogul Donald Trump confused when asked under oath about his relationship to a twice-convicted felon with ties to the Mafia. Trump has long faced allegations of connections to the mob, but his relationship with Felix Sater — who pleaded guilty in 1998 to racketeering in a fraud scheme involving the Genovese and Bonanno crime families — represents a more direct link between the presidential candidate and organized crime. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like,” Trump testified in the video deposition, which was obtained by ABC News. But Trump reportedly named Sater as a senior business adviser in 2010. The Russian émigré carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” and appeared in numerous photos with Trump. ABC-TV, Memory Lapse? Trump Seeks Distance From 'Advisor' With Past Ties to Mafia, Mattherw Mosk and Brian Ross, Dec. 10, 2015. (3:17 video). Although he touts his outstanding memory, when Donald Trump was asked under oath about his dealings with a twice-convicted Russian émigré who served prison time and had documented mafia connections, the real estate mogul was at a loss. Even though the man, Felix Sater, had played a role in a number of high-profile Trump-branded projects across the country. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like,” Trump testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit two years ago. In recent weeks, the Republican Presidential candidate has been fending off critics who have accused him of embellishment, insensitivity and in some cases inaccuracy for his descriptions of the Muslim response to 9/11. Trump also dismissed outrage at his purported mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter, saying he simply does not remember meeting the scribe. Away from the spotlight, Donald Trump has also been seeking to minimize his past business ties with Sater, the Russian émigré who appeared in photos with Trump, and carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.” Huffington Post, New 9/11 Bill Hits Last-Minute Snags, Large Cuts, Michael McAuliff, Dec. 10, 2015. Sources say the Energy and Commerce Committee is mistakenly cutting the bill and almost left off the name. Just when it looked like a new 9/11 health and compensation law was on the brink of being finalized -- and after House Speaker Paul Ryan threw his support behind it -- sources told the Huffington Post troubling last-minutes snags were emerging. At one point, sources said, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the health portion of the bill, had left off the name of the legislation -- the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It was named after a New York City detective who died from illnesses he contracted working on the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks. "It just shows how inept and uncaring they are," said one advocate who requested anonymity while negotiations are still ongoing. The name issue got fixed, but more problematically, the sources said, the committee has refused to use as its template for the bill the legislation that has already been drawn up by lead sponsors Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). That legistlation has more than 260 co-sponsors in the House and 67 in the Senate. It's a problem because it allows errors to creep into a measure that has been put together over many years and vetted by experts in the Obama administration and in the field working to provide health care to more than 33,000 ailing responders. Washington Post, McConnell warns that trade deal won’t pass Congress before 2016 elections, Paul Kane and David Nakamura, Dec. 10, 2015. The Senate majority leader’s remarks dealt a significant blow to the Pacific pact and President Obama's global trade agenda. McConnell, a Republican representing Kentucky, is shown in an official photo. Reuters via CBC News, Russia calls Turkey's accusations of 'ethnic cleansing' in Syria groundless, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that accusations by Turkey of Moscow allegedly conducting ethnic cleansing in Syria are "groundless." Thomson Reuters via CNBC, Islamic State oil is going to Assad, some to Turkey, U.S. official says, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Islamic State militants have made more than $500 million trading oil with significant volumes sold to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and some finding its way to Turkey, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on Thursday. The United States, France, Britain and Russia have vowed to defeat Islamic State, which uses an extreme interpretation of Islam to justify attacks and brutality in large parts of Syria and Iraq that it controls. A U.S.-led coalition is bombing the hardline Sunni group, as is Assad's only big-power supporter Russia, in an attempt to kill its leaders and cripple the oil wells which the group uses to finance its rule and attacks abroad. South Front via Vineyard of the Saker, The Russia-Turkey standoff: Bosphorus blockade, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Washington Post, How the new Washington Post building ushers in a new era of journalism, Joel Achenbach, Dec. 10, 2015. The Washington Post is relocating to One Franklin Square after decades of history in its building on 15th street. The new Post will commemorate the old Post, the historic Post. Near the Hub will be a wall reserved for Pulitzer Prize winners — with much of the wall empty, in deference to future excellence. Editors will meet in a story conference room named for Ben Bradlee, the executive editor during The Post’s emergence as a top-tier news organization. A quote from Ben will loom over the meetings in that room: “The truth, no matter how bad, is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run.” AP via ABC News, US State Department Gets Undiplomatic with Russian TV Reporter, Bradley Klapper, Dec. 10, 2015. U.S.-Russian tensions broke out in undiplomatic fashion in an unlikely place Thursday: the State Department briefing room. What began with a series of tough, if suggestive, questions from a correspondent for Russian government-funded news ended with department spokesman John Kirby delivering an uncharacteristically severe indictment of Russian military activity in Syria and press conduct. Kirby also unloaded on the RT television channel and its reporter, Gayane Chichakyan. "I can't believe that you aren't embarrassed to ask these questions," Kirby said several minutes into the back-and-forth with Chichakyan, whose questioning has previously prompted sharp — if more restrained — exchanges. "You have to be looking at these questions and almost laughing to yourself, don't you? They're absolutely crazy." See also related column: Information Clearinghouse, US State Department Gets Undiplomatic with Russian TV Reporter, Dec. 11, 2015 (10-min. video). RT Reporter Gayane Chichakyan shows US reporters how real questioning is conducted and the proof of her effectiveness is shown by US State Department representative John Kirby losing his composure and insulting the reporter and the TV network she works for along with the country of Russia. Note how the State Department spokesperson continually dodges the question while the reporter stays on point. As she reiterates the main point of the question that wasn't answered, John Kirby shows his frustration with the line of questioning and then resorts to insults and demagoguery. This is classic deflection technique. The reporter continues to remain professional and once again reiterates the question at hand. For a third time, the question is dodged and the State Department spokesperson embarrasses the United States by exhibiting characteristics that are considered unprofessional in global diplomatic protocol. Dec. 9 New York Times, U.S. Is Willing to Use Attack Helicopters to Help Fight ISIS, Helene Cooper, Matthew Rosenberg and Michael R. Gordon, Dec. 9, 2015. The United States is prepared to deploy attack helicopters and additional advisers to help Iraqi forces in their long-running battle to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Wednesday. As the forces make what they have billed as their final push into the city center, which will entail urban warfare, defense officials say they are considering the use of American attack helicopters. Such a move would deepen American involvement in the war and could bring helicopter pilots under increased risk from ground fire, but the Pentagon views it as a necessary step, Mr. Carter (shown in an official photo) told a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the hearing, Mr. Carter got into the usual back and forth with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has pushed for more American troops to be sent to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “There are 20,000 to 30,000 of them,” Mr. McCain said. “They are not giants. Somebody is going to have to convince me that air power alone” is enough to defeat the militant Sunni extremist group. Mr. Carter countered that a large American deployment could do more harm that good. “By seeming to Americanize the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” he said, “we could well turn those fighting ISIL or inclined to resist their rule into fighting us instead.” BBC, Turkey PM accuses Russia of wanting 'ethnic cleansing' in Syria, Staff report, Dec. 9, 2015. Turkey's prime minister has accused Russia of attempting "ethnic cleansing" with its air strikes in northern Syria. Ahmet Davutoglu said Russia's campaign had targeted Turkmen and Sunni communities around the Latakia region. President Vladimir Putin has asked UK specialists to help analyse the flight recorder in a phone conversation with PM David Cameron, the Kremlin says. Turkey insists that its F-16 fighters shot down the Russian Su-24 on 24 November because the bomber had trespassed into its airspace. Russia denies this. Russia says its bombers are attacking IS and other jihadist groups in Syria, helping the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Reuters via CBC News, Russia calls Turkey's accusations of 'ethnic cleansing' in Syria groundless, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Thursday that accusations by Turkey of Moscow allegedly conducting ethnic cleansing in Syria are "groundless". BBC, Syria conflict: Rebels leave Homs under truce, Lyse Doucet, Dec. 9, 2015. Syrian rebels have begun evacuating the last district they control in the city of Homs under a ceasefire deal reached with the government.Those leaving al-Wair, under siege for almost three years, will travel to rebel-held areas of Idlib province. Homs was once dubbed the "capital of the revolution" and saw some of the first protests of the 2011 uprising. But the truce means the entire city returns to government control, in a boost for President Bashar al-Assad. About 700 people, including rebel fighters and civilians, are due to depart throughout Wednesday, Homs governor Talal Barazi said. Counterpunch, Why Do They Hate Us? It’s No Mystery, Sheldon Richman, Dec. 9, 2015. What do Barack Obama and Donald Trump have in common? Among other things, they have — or pretend to have — no clue why some Muslims hate us. Trump says (I almost typed believes, but I’m not sure anyone, including Trump, knows what he believes) Muslims should be barred from the United States until “until the country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Note that Trump includes himself among those who haven’t figured it out, or else he surely would have told us. He either does not know, or does not care, why people are willing to kill Americans. Let’s give these members of the American elite their due: one has to work hard to make a mystery of anti-American (and anti-Western) terrorism emanating from the Middle East. It takes prodigious effort to maintain an air of innocence about San Bernardino and Paris, because no one who claims to be informed can plead ignorance of the long history of U.S. and Western imperialism in the Muslim world. Washington Post, Long-running probe ends without charges against former D.C. mayor Vincent Gray, Ann E. Marimow, Spencer S. Hsu and Keith L. Alexander, Dec. 9, 2015. The decision is a stunning turnaround for the U.S. attorney’s office, which in the weeks before his ouster in a 2014 primary had accused him of having detailed knowledge of a corrupt, off-the-books campaign fund. WND, NSA's needle in a haystack, Andrew Napolitano, Dec. 9, 2015. Since Edward Snowden revealed the federal government’s unlawful and unconstitutional use of federal statutes to justify spying on all in America all the time, including the members of Congress who unwittingly wrote and passed the statutes, I have been arguing that the Fourth Amendment prohibits all domestic spying, except that which has been authorized by a search warrant issued by a judge. The same amendment also requires that warrants be issued only based on a serious level of individualized suspicion backed up by evidence – called probable cause – and the warrants must specifically identify the place and person to be spied upon. The government – which thinks it can right any wrong, tax any event, regulate any behavior and interfere with any right – also thinks it can keep us safe from the terrorists among us by cutting constitutional corners, which it has done many times since 9/11. Among the constitutional corners it has cut is unleashing its 60,000 domestic spies upon us with orders to disregard the constitutional requirements for spying on Americans and gather all the data about us that they can by listening to phone calls and reading emails, as well as gathering the banking information, credit card information, utility bills, postal mail and medical records of everyone in America, without regard to individualized suspicion. International Monetary Fund (IMF) Head Christine LaGarde at National Press Club January 16, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John) Vineyard of the Saker, The IMF forgives Ukraine’s loan to Russia, Michael Hudson, Dec. 9, 2015. Since 1947 when it really started operations, the World Bank has acted as a branch of the U.S. Defense Department, from its first major chairman John J. McCloy through Robert McNamara to Robert Zoellick and neocon Paul Wolfowitz. From the outset, it has promoted U.S. exports – especially farm exports – by steering Third World countries to produce plantation crops rather than feeding their own populations. But it has felt obliged to wrap its U.S. export promotion and support for the dollar area in an ostensibly internationalist rhetoric, as if what’s good for the United States is good for the world. The IMF has now been drawn into the U.S. Cold War orbit. On Tuesday it made a radical decision to dismantle the condition that had integrated the global financial system for the past half century. In the past, it has been able to take the lead in organizing bailout packages for governments by getting other creditor nations – headed by the United States, Germany and Japan – to participate. The creditor leverage that the IMF has used is that if a nation is in financial arrears to any government, it cannot qualify for an IMF loan – and hence, for packages involving other governments. For over half a year, there was a semi-public discussion with U.S. Treasury advisors and Cold Warriors about how to stiff Russia on the $3 billion owed by Ukraine to Russia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. There was some talk of declaring this an “odious debt,” but it was decided that this ploy might backfire against U.S. supported dictatorships. In the end, the IMF simply lent Ukraine the money. By doing so, it announced its new policy: “We only enforce debts owed in US dollars to US allies.” This means that what was simmering as a Cold War against Russia has now turned into a full-blown division of the world into the Dollar Bloc (with its satellite Euro and other pro-U.S. currencies) and the BRICS or other countries not in the U.S. financial and military orbit. What should Russia do? For that matter, what should China and other BRICS countries do? The IMF and U.S. neocons have sent the world a message: you don’t have to honor debts to countries outside of the dollar area and its satellites. Photo caption: The Obama administration's U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt greet their newly installed President Petro Poroschenko, the billionaire "Chocolate King," in June 2014 with Secretary of State John Kerry in the background at right. Nuland is part of the prominent neo-conservative Kagan family, and is a former aide to both Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She and Pyatt helped orchestrate the overthrow of the Ukraine's government, as documented by a pirated tape recording release in February 2014, as elsewhere. In gratitude and to cement ties with those controlling U.S. taxpayer, banking, and military support for the new government, the largest natural gas company in the Ukraine named one of Kerry's chief fund-raisers and Vice President Joe Biden's younger son as directors. Washington Post, At The Post these days, you can read the writing on the wall, Joel Achenbach, Dec. 9, 2015. I don’t suppose many people care that we’re moving offices, but it’s a big deal around here. The Post has been at 1150 15th Street NW since the early 1970s. Not only are we moving out, but they’re tearing down the building. This injects a certain apocalyptic note to the move. We’ll be at One Franklin Square, although the post office refuses to acknowledge that address and has some boring street address instead. We retain the 20071 Zip code that is exclusive to The Post — so we’ve got that going for us. Many of the greats who worked in the newsroom came back today for a final look at the 15th and L headquarters. AP via Huffington Post, Trump's Incendiary Comments Throw GOP Into A Tailspin, Steve Peoples and Laurie Kellman, Dec. 9, 2015. One by one, Republican officials across the country lashed out at Trump's plan. Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States is shoving the Republican Party to the edge of chaos, abruptly pitting GOP leaders against their own presidential front-runner and jeopardizing the party's longtime drive to attract minorities. Unbowed, Trump fired a searing warning Tuesday via Twitter to fellow Republicans carping about his proposal. A majority of his supporters, he tweeted, "would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent." Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump Tax Wall Street Party, Another Raving Outburst From Trump Against Moslems Highlights Issue Of Fascism And Nazism In GOP Presidential Field, Webster G. Tarpley, Dec. 9, 2015. For many decades, most Americans had completely forgotten about the main political issue of the middle decades of the 20th century. This was the issue of fascism and Nazism, understood as variations in the intensity of the same fundamental phenomenon. But now, in the latter months of 2015, fascism is back with a vengeance. The reason that fascism is being so prominently discussed after an absence of many moons is of course the fascist quality of so many contenders in the Republican party presidential primary field, and in particular the fascist rhetoric of Donald Trump. Since the Democratic Party had refused for so long to attempt to destroy the GOP, it is ironic that the latter is now being destroyed from the inside, by a Trump who has been compared both to a wrecking ball, and especially to Samson bringing down the temple of the Philistines on the heads of the tenants. The understanding that most Americans have of Hitler and Nazism focuses almost exclusively on Hitler’s genocidal policies against Jews. In reality, fascism and Nazism represent a total world outlook, with terrible implications for virtually every sphere of human activity. It is important to stress that the American people have one of the best anti-fascist records in the world. Be proud of being an American and not a Nazi or a fascist. Washington's Blog, Trump Didn't Vote to Kill 1 Million Muslims in Iraq, Hillary Did, David Swanson, Dec. 9, 2015. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for pointing out that the U.S. media is acting as though Donald Trump just invented bigotry this week. But not only is explicit bigotry toward Muslims not new, implicit bigotry toward Muslims has been the foundation of the largest public project in the United States for the past quarter century. The driving forces behind war planning in Washington are power, domination, profit, politics, and the inertia of war planning as a path toward career success. Donald Trump didn't vote for the war on Iraq that killed a million Muslims. He didn't vote to fund it and escalate it over and over again. Hillary Clinton did that. Which is not to say that Trump wouldn't have done so too, or worse, if he thought it would get him on TV more. The point is that the hatred is not new. Without it, basic U.S. policy would be understood as irrational. Dec. 8 Politico, Trump not bothered by comparisons to Hitler, Nick Gass, Dec. 8, 2015. The billionaire businessman refuses to back off his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. Donald Trump went on a series of rhetorical rants on Tuesday morning, saying he does not mind comparisons to Adolf Hitler and tussling with morning show anchors about his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States, calling his approach more akin to what Hitler's American contemporary did during World War II. “You’re increasingly being compared to Hitler. Doesn’t that give you any pause at all?” ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked the Republican poll leader on "Good Morning America," displaying an image of the Philadelphia Daily News' punning Tuesday front-page headline "The New Furor." In response, Trump said no, invoking what he termed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "solution for Germans, Italians, Japanese many years ago" during World War II. “This was a president that was highly respected by all," Trump said, remarking upon the Democratic president's actions during the war. "If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse." National Press Club, New Smithsonian head urges emphasis on arts and humanities, but not at expense of science, Gwen Flanders, Dec. 8, 2015. Related video above. David Skorton, the new secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, made it clear Tuesday that he sees his organization’s mission in broad terms. In a National Press Club luncheon address, Skorton talked about the need for a community to agree on values in order to solve society’s problems. “One way,” he said, “is to reverse our nation’s seeming disinterest and disinvestment in the arts and humanities, but to do so in a way that does not sacrifice our investment in science. ... The arts and humanities complement science, and together they make us better thinkers, better decision makers and better citizens.” Skorton, 66, who took the helm of the Smithsonian on July 1 after a career as a cardiologist and educator led him most recently to the presidency of Cornell University, noted the emphasis by schools and governments on science, technology, engineering and math, an emphasis he said has come at the expense of the humanities. “To understand what it means to be human and to understand the complex problems that the world now faces require us to deploy every technique of understanding at our disposal, including and especially those at the heart of the visual and performing arts, social sciences and cultural studies,” said Skorton, shown in a Cornell photo. Questions from the luncheon audience focused on the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and zoo. Times of Israel, Israeli breakthrough drug helped cure Jimmy Carter’s cancer, AP and Raoul Wootliff, Dec. 8, 2015. Keytruda fights tumors using the body’s natural immune system. An Israeli-tested drug that tackles cancer through sophisticated manipulations of the body’s natural immune system was key in helping rid former U.S. president Jimmy Carter of life-threatening tumors that developed after he was diagnosed with melanoma earlier this year. Researched in Israel by Professor Jacob Schachter of the Ella Institute for melanoma treatment and research at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Keytruda is part of a promising new class of drugs called immuno-therapies, which harness the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. The US-based Merck pharmaceutical company’s injectable biotech drug works by blocking a protein found in certain tumors called PD-1, which inhibits the body’s natural response to cancer cells. Carter, 91, announced Sunday that doctors found no evidence of the four lesions discovered on his brain this summer and no signs of new cancer growth. He revealed in August that he had been diagnosed with melanoma and had begun treatment, including surgery to remove part of his liver, targeted radiation therapy and doses of a recently approved drug to help his immune system seek out any new cancer cells. “I will continue to receive regular 3-week immunotherapy treatments of pembrolizumab,” he said. That drug goes by the name Keytruda commercially. Washington Post, Jeb Bush copes with a series of petty humiliations, Ed O'Keefe, Dec. 8, 2015. It doesn’t show in the polls, but Bush has become a stronger campaigner — maintaining a grueling schedule of early morning coffee meet-and-greets, interviews with small-town television reporters and nighttime town halls and speeches. And he still has more money than the rest of the field, traveling in a packed SUV with a bodyguard, a personal aide, a press spokesperson and a campaign videographer. He seems more comfortable in his own skin. But no matter how hard he tries, nothing has helped reverse his slide. The JebBush.com domain was redirected to Donald Trump’s website because the Bush campaign failed to lock it down. During a speech, people slipped out to see rival Chris Christie. And there's more. Politico, Court mulls FBI mosque surveillance, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 8, 2015. Just days after a deadly terrorist attack triggered a heated national political debate over terror-fighting tactics and the treatment of Muslims in the new climate, a federal appeals court wrestled Monday with a long-running lawsuit over the FBI's use of an undercover informant sent into southern California mosques to collect information and audio recordings as part of a terrorism investigation. "Operation Flex" took place in 2006 and 2007, during President George W. Bush's Administration, but in 2011 President Barack Obama's administration used a controversial legal principle -- the state secrets privilege -- to try to shut down the bulk of the claims in a lawsuit alleging that the techniques used in the probe violated worshippers and Mosque leaders' constitutional rights to religious freedom, freedom of association and privacy. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals spent more than an hour Monday hearing arguments about a judge's rulings in 2012 that frustrated both sides by tossing out all claims against the government, but allowing the plaintiffs to press on with allegations that five individual FBI agents violated a federal law governing electronic surveillance, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Global Research via Strategic Culture Foundation, “JFK and the Unspeakable” and “The Deep State”: The Assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, The Role of Allen Dulles, David Swanson, Dec. 8, 2015. By now there’s not nearly as much disagreement regarding what happened to John and Robert Kennedy as major communications corporations would have you believe. While every researcher and author highlights different details, there isn’t any serious disagreement among, say, Jim Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession, and David Talbot’s new The Devil’s Chessboard. Jon Schwarz says The Devil’s Chessboard confirms that “your darkest suspicions about how the world operates are likely an underestimate. Yes, there is an amorphous group of unelected corporate lawyers, bankers, and intelligence and military officials who form an American ‘deep state,’ setting real limits on the rare politicians who ever try to get out of line.” For those of us who were already convinced of that up to our eyeballs, Talbot’s book is still one of the best I’ve seen on the Dulles brothers and one of the best I’ve seen on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Where it differs from Douglass’ book, I think, is not so much in the evidence it relates or the conclusions it draws, but in providing an additional motivation for the crime. JFK and the Unspeakable depicts Kennedy as getting in the way of the violence that Allen Dulles and gang wished to engage in abroad. The Devil’s Chessboard depicts Kennedy, in addition, as himself being the sort of leader the CIA was in the habit of overthrowing in those foreign capitals. Kennedy had made enemies of bankers and industrialists. He was working to shrink oil profits by closing tax loopholes, including the “oil depletion allowance.” He was permitting the political left in Italy to participate in power, outraging the extreme right in Italy, the U.S., and the CIA. He aggressively went after steel corporations and prevented their price hikes. Antiwar.com, Diana Johnstone Dissects Hillary, Queen of Chaos, John V. Walsh, Dec. 8, 2015. Johnstone’s new book, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, is a must read....a capsule history of the US Empire’s depredations over the past 25 years since the end of the Cold War when the Clintons came upon the national scene. Given the ever sharper confrontation which our elite is engineering with Russia and China, one that could well lead to nuclear war, this is a history we all need to review and understand correctly. Our very survival may well depend on it. Such an eloquent and compact chronicle is of enormous usefulness right now. Queen is not a gossipy bio, delineating Hillary’s shallow, belligerent, mendacious, psychopathic character, although such a tome, necessarily massive, would be welcome. These characteristics of Hillary’s necessarily emerge to some degree in Queen of Chaos. but personality portrayal is not the core of the book. Rather the book is historical. Johnstone sees Clinton as both a product of her times – privileged child of the U.S. Empire. The book is more history than Hillary. But by going this route Johnstone grasps the essential Clinton with crystal clarity. WHBQ-TV (Memphis), Former mayor of Terry, Miss. sentenced to 40 years for embezzlement, Staff report, Dec. 8, 2015. The former mayor of Terry, Miss., Roderick Nicholson, was sentenced to 40 years for embezzling money from the city today. Nicholson pleaded guilty to five counts of embezzlement. He has been in custody since November 23. The former mayor used the town’s credit card to make unauthorized personal purchases and submitted false bills to be repaid by the town. [The amount was $2,700, as previously reported.] “It is a good day for the Town of Terry knowing their tax dollars aren’t being spent on the former mayor’s personal bills,” State Auditor Stacey Pickering said in a press release. Nicholson is sentenced to 40 years in custody of Mississippi Department of Corrections with 10 to serve. In addition, he will pay restitution and court costs in the amount of $7,629.12. RT, Russia strikes ISIS targets in Syria from sub in Mediterranean for first time, (VIDEO), Staff report, Dec. 8, 2015. Russia has, for the first time, targeted Islamic State targets in Syria with Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles launched from a submarine in the Mediterranean Sea. The 3M-54 Kalibr missiles were launched from the Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine “Rostov-on-Don”, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. Russia’s warships based in the Caspian and Mediterranean seas launched similar missiles targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in late November. This is the first time that Russia has targeted IS in Syria from a submarine. Shoigu stated that in the past three days Russian Air Forces have carried out over 300 sorties hitting 600 terrorist targets. Shoigu also said that the flight recorder of the Russian Su-24, recently downed by Turkey near the Syrian-Turkish border, has been found and presented it to Putin. Putin told Shoigu that it should be opened only in the presence of international experts. Russia has been conducting airstrikes targeting Islamic State (IS, former ISIS, ISIL) militants and other terrorist groups in Syria since September 30. The air campaign was launched after a formal request from Damascus. Dec. 7 French presidential candidate and National Front Leader Marine Le Pen with JIP Director Andrew Kreig at National Press Club before a Le Pen speech in 2011 Washington Post, France’s far-right soars in vote, joins mainstream parties, Elaine Ganley, Dec. 7, 2015. The National Front party’s results in the regional elections were the latest in a series of electoral inroads. France’s options are no longer as simple as left and right. The far-right, anti-establishment National Front party has ridden a wave of anger over migration and extremist attacks straight into the political mainstream — where experts predict it will stay. The party’s historic results in this past Sunday’s first round of regional elections were the latest in a series of electoral inroads, with scores that shamed and destabilized the traditional parties. The conservative party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy and President François Hollande’s ­Socialists were scrambling to find ways to block the ascent of the far right before the final round this Sunday. The showing of the National Front, which won six of 13 regions, will dynamize leader Marine Le Pen’s planned bid for the presidency in 2017. In the traditionally Socialist northeastern region where she was running, the party won more than 40 percent of the vote. Her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, had a similar showing in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, a stronghold of the traditional right. AP via Washington Post, Biden announces more US aid for Ukraine, Staff report, Dec. 7, 2015. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden assured Ukraine Monday of continuing U.S. support and announced the release of an additional $190 million in U.S. aid to help support reforms. Biden added that the additional roughly $190 million in U.S. assistance will help fight corruption in Ukraine’s law-enforcement and reform the justice sector, helping attract more investment by streamlining regulations and privatizing state-owned enterprises in a transparent way. JIP Editor's Note: The crony capitalism at work -- and at U.S. taxpayer expense -- is illustrated by the 2014 appointment Biden's son Hunter to the board of the Ukraine's largest gas company shortly after Western-backed insurrectionists overthrew the Ukraine's elected government. Hunter Biden named to Ukraine gas board reports the appointment. The younger son of the vice president is shown in a file photo. The gas company also appointed to its board a top fund-raiser for Secretary of State John Kerry, thereby helping solidify financial and military ties to U.S. military and taxpayer support. Ironically, the vice president's speech this week in the Ukraine urged the nation to reduce corruption. Washington Post, Supreme Court won’t review laws banning assault weapons, Robert Barnes, Dec. 7, 2015. The justices declined to review the ability of cities and states to prohibit semiautomatic assault weapons that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition and have been used in deadly mass shootings. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the ability of cities and states to prohibit semiautomatic high-capacity assault weapons that have been used in some of the nation’s most deadly recent mass shootings. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said the court should review the ban, which “flouts” the court’s Second Amendment jurisprudence. They criticized lower court decisions that have allowed jurisdictions and impose what Thomas called “categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes.” The court’s action Monday continues a pattern. After deciding in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 that the Second Amendment provides the right for an individual to keep a weapon in the home, the court has avoided all cases that might clarify if that right is more expansive. Syria CENTCOM Map via Reuters Guardian, At least 26 Syrian civilians killed in suspected US-led airstrike, Staff report, Dec. 7, 2015. Anti-Isis strikes launched by US-led coalition on village of Al-Khan in Syria have left only civilians dead, according to monitoring group. At least 26 Syrian civilians have been killed in an airstrike suspected to have been launched by the US-led coalition against the so-called Islamic State, piling pressure on the alliance after allegations another bombing raid left regime soldiers dead. The coalition has been bombarding the Islamic State group for more than a year in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, where the jihadists have declared a self-styled caliphate. But according to a monitoring group, strikes on Monday on the village of Al-Khan in north-eastern Syria only left civilians dead. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin with ISIS backdrop (Press TV image via DCMA) Business Insider, Russia appears to have 'gone ballistic' in Syria — and it may be helping ISIS, Natasha Bertrand, Dec. 7, 2015. Russia is showing no signs that it intends to forgive and forget Turkey's decision to down a Russian warplane two weeks ago. The Russians appear to have "gone ballistic" in their determination to wipe out Turkish influence in northern Syria and help regime forces reach Aleppo, a UN official told McClatchy on Monday. A stepped-up Russian bombing campaign in the Bayirbucak region of northwest Syria, near the strategically important city of Azaz, has primarily targeted the Turkey-backed Turkmen rebels and civilians — and the Turkish aid convoys that supply them. JIP Editor's Note: This column generated a large number of reader comments, primarily attacking the publication as reporting a biased view of the conflict congruent with neoconservative idelogy. As an example of one comment: "Business Insider, when I thought your "news" reports could not get any more pathetic, you go and write this ludicrous piece of propaganda and raise your pathetic level to stratospheric levels. You should read the comments, NO ONE BELIEVES the garbage you write, except for a few imbeciles." PaulCraigRoberts.org, War Is On The Horizon: Is It Too Late To Stop It? Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 7, 2015. One lesson from military history is that once mobilization for war begins, it takes on a momentum of its own and is uncontrollable. This might be what is occurring unrecognized before our eyes. In his September 28 speech at the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia can no longer tolerate the state of affairs in the world. Two days later at the invitation of the Syrian government Russia began war against ISIS. Russia was quickly successful in destroying ISIS arms depots and helping the Syrian army to roll back ISIS gains. Russia also destroyed thousands of oil tankers, the contents of which were financing ISIS by transporting stolen Syrian oil to Turkey where it is sold to the family of the current gangster who rules Turkey. Washington was caught off guard by Russia’s decisiveness. Fearful that the quick success of such decisive action by Russia would discourage Washington’s NATO vassals from continuing to support Washington’s war against Assad and Washington’s use of its puppet government in Kiev to pressure Russia, Washington arranged for Turkey to shoot down a Russian fighter-bomber despite the agreement between Russia and NATO that there would be no air-to-air encounters in Russia’s area of air operation in Syria.There is no doubt that Washington is driving the world toward Armageddon, and Europe is the enabler. Daily Mail, Could you imagine FDR saying, 'We were attacked yesterday on Pearl Harbor. I really don't want to talk about who did it, Francesca Chambers, Dec. 7, 2015. Republicans rip into Obama's terrorism speech. President Barack Obama's refusal to mention Islamic terrorism as he made his Oval Office address last night was condemned by leading Republicans today. They seized on the timing of the address -- on the eve of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day -- to slam Obama for what one described as a 'partisan speech.' In the address the Commander in Chief promised that the country would 'overcome' the threat of terrorism and it would destroy the 'thugs and killers', 'and any other organization that tries to harm us.' His pointed refusal to acknowledge the religion of the radicals had Republicans competing to replace him up in arms once again. Washington Post, Donald Trump called out Jeff Bezos on Twitter. Then Bezos called his bluff, Chris Cillizza, Dec. 7, 2015. Donald Trump's tweetstorms directed at media organizations — and sometimes even at individual reporters — have become commonplace in the 2016 presidential race. Seemingly out of the blue, The Donald takes to Twitter to bash his chosen media opponent of the day. He sends an eruption of tweets, then goes silent — like an active volcano. You never really know when it's going to blow — or, often, why. On Monday, Trump's ire was directed at The Washington Post and, more specifically, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Post since 2013. At around 10 a.m. Eastern time, Trump sent a trio of tweets about Bezos and The Post Dec. 6 Washington Post, Obama warns of ‘new phase’ in terror threat, vows to destroy ISIS, David Nakamura, Dec. 6, 2015. In a rare prime-time address from the Oval Office, the president sought to reassure an uneasy nation, saying "we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless." Annotated transcript of Obama’s remarks. Washington Post, Obama’s Oval Office address reflects struggle to be heard, Greg Jaffe, Dec. 6, 2015. In addressing the nation Sunday evening, President Obama turned to a venue he doesn’t like to discuss a subject he would rather avoid. His decision to speak on the terrorist threat from the Oval Office, just days after the deadly attack in San Bernardino, Calif., reflects a broad concern in the White House that the American people, distracted by the overheated cacophony of the campaign season, are not listening to him. Or at least they are not hearing what he has to say. Washington Post, Jimmy Carter told his Sunday school class that he has no signs of cancer, staff report, Dec. 6, 2015. The former president, 91, said that the melanoma in his liver and brain appeared to be in remission. He has been undergoing treatment since August. CBS, Confidential Informants, Lesley Stahl, Dec. 6, 2015. Reports on law enforcement's controversial use of young confidential informants in the war on drugs, some of whose cases ended tragically. The following script is from "Confidential Informants." Politico, Justice to investigate Chicago police, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 6, 2015. The Justice Department is planning to open a so-called "pattern or practice" investigation into possible civil rights violations by the Chicago police department, according to a law enforcement official. The announcement could come this week, a personal familiar with the situation said. The DOJ's expected move comes after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged such a probe. And after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who initially said such a probe was unnecessary, reversed himself and called for it. Chicago has been wracked with protests and tension since Nov. 24, when police released the video of the fatal 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald, who was armed with a knife, was shot 16 times. Last week, Emanuel dismissed Garry McCarthy, the police chief. Huffington Post, U.S. driving rape victims worldwide to grisly abortions, Laura Bassett with photos by Jake Naughton, Dec. 6, 2015. Thousands of rape victims around the world undergo grisly and unsafe abortions because of U.S. policy. Obama could change this with a single executive action. Why hasn't he? When the Islamic militant group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian high school girls in a single day, the story horrified the world. Many of those who managed to survive their ordeal — being serially raped by multiple fighters, being forced to have sex every night at knifepoint — came back carrying the offspring of their abusers. In 2015, after the Nigerian Army rescued more than 700 women and girls, one humanitarian aid camp reported that more than 200 were visibly pregnant. Some of the girls reportedly sought out illegal, unsafe abortions. Others were too afraid to take the risk and were shunned by their communities for giving birth to the children of killers. And an American policy was one of the main reasons why. President Obama (White House photo) The policy in question is the Helms amendment, which prevents American aid from being used to pay for abortions. The domestic equivalent, the Hyde amendment, makes exceptions so that federal programs like Medicaid can be used to fund abortions for women who are the victims of rape and incest, or whose lives are in danger. But when it comes to Helms, the U.S. government does not allow any exceptions at all—not even for women who are raped in conflict or who would die without the procedure. Because the U.S. is the single largest donor to women’s health programs, the Helms amendment drastically restricts access to safe abortion all over the world. Zero Hedge, Turkey Detains Russian Ships In Black Sea, Blasts Moscow For Brandishing Rocket Launcher In Strait, Tyler Durden, Dec. 6, 2015. Exactly a week ago, we warned that Turkey does have one trump card when it comes to dealing with an angry Russian bear that’s hell bent on making life miserable for Ankara in the wake of Erdogan’s brazen move to shoot down a Russian Su-24 near the Syrian border. Turkey, we explained, could move to close the Bosphorus Strait, cutting one of Moscow’s key supply lines to Latakia. We went on to explain, that such a move would probably be illegal based on the 1936 Montreux Convention, but as Sputnik noted, "in times of war, the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish government." Obviously, Turkey and Russia haven’t formally declared war on one another, but the plane “incident” marked the first time a NATO member has engaged a Russian or Soviet aircraft in more than six decades and given the gravity of that escalation, one would hardly put it past Erdogan to start interfering with Moscow’s warships, especially if it means delaying their arrival in Syria where the Russians are on the verge of restoring an Assad government that’s Turkey despises. Well sure enough, the tit-for-tat mutual escalation that’s ensued since the Su-24 crash has spilled over into the maritime arena with Moscow and Ankara detaining each other's ships. Zero Hedge, Iraq May Seek "Direct Military Intervention From Russia" To Expel Turkish Troops, Tyler Durden, Dec. 6, 2015. Turkey just can’t seem to help itself when it comes to escalations in the Mid-East. First, Erdogan intentionally reignited the conflict between Ankara and the PKK in an effort to scare the public into nullifying a democratic election outcome. Then, the Turks shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border. Finally, in what very well might be an effort to protect Islamic State oil smuggling routes, Erdogan sent 150 troops and two dozen tanks to Bashiqa, just northeast of Mosul in a move that has infuriated Baghdad. We discussed the troop deployment at length on Saturday in “Did Turkey Just Invade Iraq To Protect Erdogan's ISIS Oil Smuggling Routes? Here was our conclusion:The backlash underscores the fact that Iraq does not want help from NATO when it comes to fighting ISIS. Iraqis generally believe the US is in bed with Islamic State and you can bet that Russia and Iran will be keen on advising Baghdad to be exceptionally assertive when it comes to expelling a highly suspicious Turkish presence near Najma. Dec. 5 Kurdish peshmerga forces prepare for battle against the Isis. Turkish official have said Turkish soldiers have been sent to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters. (Photograph: Uncredited/AP) AFP via The Guardian, Iraq orders Turkey to 'immediately' withdraw troops sent across border, Staff report, Dec. 5, 2015. Prime minister’s office says the deployment of an armoured regiment ‘is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty.' Zero Hedge, Did Turkey Just Invade Iraq To Protect Erdogan's ISIS Oil Smuggling Routes? Tyler Durden, Dec. 5, 2015. On Friday, Turkey sent troops into Iraq. What’s different this time around, is that this isn’t a Kurd-chasing mission. In fact, if you believe the official line, it’s the exact opposite. Turkey has apparently had some 90 troops on the ground in Bashiqa “for two years” on a mission to “train” the Peshmerga. The new troops -- around 150 personnel supported by two dozen tanks -- will “take over the mission,” according to Hurriyet. “Turkey will have a permanent military base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul as the Turkish forces in the region training the Peshmerga forces have been reinforced,” the daily continues, adding that “the deal regarding the base was signed between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu, during the latter’s visit to northern Iraq on Nov. 4.”OK, so what’s important to remember here is that although Erdogan is no “fan-o’-Kurds,” Ankara is friendly with the KRG. For his part, Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi has called for Turkey to "immediately" withdraw its troops. He also calls Ankara's incursion a "violation of sovereignty." That would seem to indicate that Baghdad has never approved the "training mission" that Ankara claims has been going on east of Mosul for two years. Furthermore, this underscores the fact that Iraq does not want help from NATO when it comes to fighting ISIS. As we reported last week, Iraqis generally believe the US is in bed with Islamic State and you can bet that Russia and Iran will be keen on advising Baghdad to be exceptionally assertive when it comes to expelling a highly suspicious Turkish presence near Najma. Antiwar.com, The United States Is in the Refugee-Creation Business, Shane Smith, Dec. 5, 2015. Most of us in the United States have a vague awareness of a Second Iraq War. There was invasion, devastation, death, “victory”, and the catharsis that seemed to flood over the nation after the lynching of a Third World dictator. Satiated revenge, finally, for 9/11, was the implicit mood of many. But while many are aware of the war, and aware of Saddam’s broken neck, few care about what really happened since the invasion, and what negative consequences may have arisen because of the invasion. The New Civil Rights Movement, Final Vote Saturday On Whether Proposal Will Appear On Primary Ballot, staff report, Dec. 6, 2015. Texas GOP leaders are set to vote Saturday on whether to place a measure on the March 1 ballot in favor of seceding from the Union. The proposal cleared the Texas Republican Party's Resolutions Committee on Friday and is set for a vote by the 40-member State Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. If it passes, the resolution would place a non-binding measure on the primary ballot in favor of secession, and one recent poll suggests that GOP voters would approve it. "If the federal government continues to disregard the constitution and the sovereignty of the State of Texas, the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation," the resolution states. A 2014 Reuters poll found that one in four Americans support the idea of secession, including one-third of all Texans and a whopping 53 percent of Republicans in the Lone Star State. Update: The vote failed, so for now at least secession will not be on the ballot. OpEdNews, The California Legislators Who Killed The San Bernardino 14, Rob Kall, Dec. 5, 2015. Fourteen people are dead at the hands of a pair of psycho fundamentalists because of a handful of California legislators. Why? Because those legislators blocked a law to close a loophole that enabled the purchase of the automatic weapons. Unz Review, Week Nine of the Russian Intervention in Syria: The Empire strikes back, The Saker, Dec. 5, 2015. Considering the remarkable success of the Russian intervention in Syria, at least so far, it should not have come as a surprise that the AngloZionist Empire would strike back. The only question was how and when. We now know the answer to that question. On November 24th, the Turkish Air force did something absolutely unprecedented in recent history: it deliberately shot down another country’s military aircraft even though it was absolutely obvious that this aircraft presented no threat whatsoever to Turkey or the Turkish people. The USA and NATO immediately took “ownership” of this attack by giving their full support to Turkey. NATO went as far as to declare that it would send aircraft and ships to protect Turkey as it it had been Russia who had attacked Turkey. As for the USA, not only did it fully back Turkey, it now also categorically denies that there is any evidence that Turkey is purchasing Daesh oil. Finally, as was to be expected, the USA is now sending The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group into the eastern Mediterranean, officially to strike Daesh but, in reality, to back Turkey and threaten Russia. So what is really going on here? Simple: the Empire correctly identified the weakness of the Russian force in Syria, and it decided to use Turkey to provide itself an element of plausible deniability. This attack is probably only the first step of a much larger campaign to “push back” Russia from the Turkish border. The next step, apparently, includes the dispatching of western forces into Syria, initially only as ‘advisors,’ but eventually as special forces and forward air controllers. The US and Turkish Air Forces will play the primary role here, with assorted Germans and UK aircraft providing enough diversity to speak of an “international coalition”. As for the French, stuck between their Russian counterparts and their NATO “allies,” they will remain as irrelevant as ever: Hollande caved in, again (what else?). Eventually, NATO will create a de facto safe heaven for its “moderate terrorists” in northern Syria and use it as a base to direct an attack on Raqqa. Since any such intervention will be completely illegal, the argument of the need to defend the Turkmen minority will be used, R2P and all. The creation of a NATO-protected safe heaven for “moderate terrorists” could provide the first step from breaking up Syria into several smaller statelets. If that is really the plan, then the shooting down of the SU-24 sends a powerful message to Russia: we are ready to risk a war to push you back – are you ready to go to war? Dec. 4 From center, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, and former President George W. Bush in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall, Dec. 3, 2015. The Intercept, U.S. First Shields Its Torturers and War Criminals From Prosecution, Now Officially Honors Them, Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 4, 2015. As vice president, Dick Cheney was a prime architect of the worldwide torture regime implemented by the U.S. government (which extended far beyond waterboarding), as well as the invasion and destruction of Iraq, which caused the deaths of at least 500,000 people and more likely over a million. As such, he is one of the planet’s most notorious war criminals. President Obama made the decision in early 2009 to block the Justice Department from criminally investigating and prosecuting Cheney and his fellow torturers, as well as to protect them from foreign investigations and even civil liability sought by torture victims. Obama did that notwithstanding a campaign decree that even top Bush officials are subject to the rule of law and, more importantly, notwithstanding a treaty signed in 1984 by Ronald Reagan requiring that all signatory states criminally prosecute their own torturers. Obama’s immunizing Bush-era torturers converted torture from a global taboo and decades-old crime into a reasonable, debatable policy question, which is why so many GOP candidates are now openly suggesting its use. But now, the Obama administration has moved from legally protecting Bush-era war criminals to honoring and gushing over them in public. Yesterday, the House of Representatives unveiled a marble bust of former Vice President Cheney, which — until a person of conscience vandalizes or destroys it — will reside in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol. At the unveiling ceremony, Cheney was, in the playful words of NPR, “lightly roasted” — as though he’s some sort of grumpy though beloved avuncular stand-up comic. Along with George W. Bush, one of the speakers in attendance was Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke movingly of Cheney’s kind and generous soul: Yesterday, the U.S. government unambiguously signaled to the world that not only does it regard itself as entirely exempt from the laws of wars, the principal Nuremberg prohibition against aggressive invasions, and global prohibitions on torture (something that has been self-evident for many years), but believes that the official perpetrators should be honored and memorialized provided they engage in these crimes on behalf of the U.S. government. That’s a message that most of the U.S. media and thus large parts of the American population will not hear, but much of the world will hear it quite loudly and clearly. BillMoyers.com via OpEdNews, The GOP on the Eve of Destruction, Bill Moyers, Dec. 4, 2015. Just four-and-a-half years ago, Washington mainstays Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein shocked the inside-the-Beltway establishment (especially the press, with its silent pact to speak no evil of wrongdoers lest they deny you an interview) when they published their book, It's Even Worse than It Looks. The two esteemed political scientists wrote, "The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier -- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." In the years since, an ugly situation has only gotten increasingly dire, with right-wing radicals whipped into a frenzy by a Republican establishment that thought it could use their rage, only to find it running amok and beyond their control. JIP Editor's Note: Bill Moyers, one of most famous liberal pundits, declines to comment in depth on his role leading as White House communications director the Johnson administration's cover-up of gross irregularities in the Warren Report on President Kennedy's 1963 assassination. Harper's, Mountain Ambush, Andrew Cockburn, Dec. 4, 2015. “Looking at the detailed Russian timeline of what happened,” says defense analyst Pierre Sprey, “I’d say the evidence looks pretty strong that the Turks were setting up an ambush.” On November 24, a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber near the border of Turkey and Syria. In the immediate aftermath, officials from the two countries offered contradictory versions of what transpired: Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that the plane (typical of that shown) was flying over Syrian territory when it was downed; Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan countered that it was inside Turkey’s border and had been warned ten times to alter its course. Hours later, President Obama threw his support behind Erdogan. “Turkey,” he said, “has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.” I asked Pierre Sprey, a longtime defense analyst and member of the team that developed the F-16, to examine what we know about the downing and determine what actually occurred that morning. The Atlantic, What the Hell Just Happened on MSNBC and CNN? Staff report, Dec. 4, 2015. A baffling, surreal scene just played out on the two networks, where the landlord of the San Bernardino shooting suspects apparently allowed reporters into their apartment. The result was disturbing. On live national television, reporters sifted through the remains of the lives of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. They picked over children’s toys. They held up photos, speculating about whether the woman depicted in one might be Malik. They displayed Social Security cards and driver’s licenses with readily identifiable information — and not just for the deceased suspects. Washington Post Magazine, Arthur Bremer shot Gov. George Wallace to be famous. A search for who he is today, David Montgomery, Dec. 3, 2015. Alabama Gov. George Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer at a campaign rally in Laurel, Md., in May 1972. He kept a diary of the 10 weeks he spent stalking, first, President Richard Nixon, then Wallace. A year ago this week, the Rock Island Auction Co. in Illinois took bids for the five-shot, snub-nosed .38 revolver that Bremer used to shoot Gov. George Wallace of Alabama on May 15, 1972, during a presidential primary campaign rally at the Laurel Shopping Center in suburban Maryland. I had thought we were all done with Bremer. His attempted escape into oblivion began the moment he was tackled by bystanders and police in the shopping plaza. He would speak just three sentences in public, at his 1972 trial in Upper Marlboro, and that would be it for more than 40 years. After serving 35 1 / 2 years of a 53-year sentence, with 17 1 / 2 years knocked off for good behavior, he was released from prison in 2007. The news caused hardly a stir, even though he was one of few national attempted assassins in modern times to be set free. A church-supported group helped Bremer settle in Cumberland, tucked in the mountains of Western Maryland, where he has lived in law-abiding obscurity ever since. He is 65. Yet there’s something about Bremer — and us — that won’t let him slip away completely. He dwells at the blurry edge of memory, summoned back into focus whenever a turn in history or culture reminds us of his relevance. Antiwar.com, How Erdogan’s Adventurism Has Opened a Fissure Within NATO and in US Presidential Politics, Jim Jatras, Dec. 4, 2015. In an astonishingly short time, the ill-considered decision of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to ambush a Russian jet has had far reaching consequence far beyond those apparent in the initial days following the fatal attack. (For the situation in the immediate aftermath of the Su-24 downing, see my “‘With Us or with the Terrorists’: It’s Clear Which Side Turkey Is On”.) The fundamental problem with U.S. policy in seeking to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq (let’s remember that ISIS was originally just an al-Qaeda offshoot) and other jhadists is that the US is still taking its cues from regional allies who are essentially on the other side: with the terrorists, not against them. (Combining journalism and analysis with political activism, on December 2 I launched on the White House site a petition to “LIST ERDOGAN’S TURKEY AS STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM; VOID US ALLIANCE WITH TURKEY.” In only one day, the petition collected well over 100 signatures. This is more than two-thirds of the number needed in the first month to keep this petition as a publicly posted black eye for Turkey on the official White House website.) Dec. 3 ISIS truck convoy OpEdNews, NATO Defending Turkey, ISIS Oil Trade, Michael Collins, Dec. 3, 2015. By reinforcing the Turkish military presence along the routes of ISIS oil to Turkey, NATO is protecting the illicit ISIS oil trade that supports the reviled terrorist organization. NATO announced Tuesday that it would send patrol aircraft and missile defense systems to bolster Turkey's air defenses at that nation's border with Syria. This announcement was made on the same day that the Russian Defense Ministry produced satellite imagery and other evidence showing what has been claimed for months, namely that Turkey is receiving oil sent by truck from ISIS oil wells in Iraq and Syria. The United States government dismissed the Russian evidence consisting of images of miles of oil trucks originating at ISIS oil wells then crossing the Turkish border. ISIS oil ends up at two primary destinations, the Batman oil refinery in southeastern Turkey and Mediterranean ports near Turkey's Adana province. The value of the oil trade via Turkey is estimated between $50 and $100 million a month. Without this income, ISIS would face considerable obstacles to its ongoing military aggression, terrorist activities around the world, and subjugation of Syrians and Iraqis living under ISIS rule. The inevitable conclusion of this series of events is simple: By reinforcing the Turkish military presence along the routes of ISIS oil to Turkey, NATO is protecting the illicit ISIS oil trade that supports the reviled terrorist organization. Remarkably, NATO defense ministers endorsed the move without reference to the oil issue. If ISIS is truly an enemy of NATO countries, why does NATO protect a member state that, at the very least, enabled nearly $1.0 billion of ISIS oil sales? That sounds more like trading among allies than trading with the enemy. Washington Post, Judge: Chicago police must notify media before destroying decades of misconduct files, Jeremy Borden, Dec. 3, 2015. Chicago authorities must notify journalists and activists before they destroy decades of records related to police misconduct, Illinois Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn ruled in an emergency order Thursday. The order comes after journalist and activist Jamie Kalven petitioned the court after police officials said they would destroy hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence, investigative files and computer records related to Chicago police officer misconduct reports older than four years. The documents are among a trove of data requested by Kalven and other media organizations, including the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, dating back to 1967. Last year, city officials agreed to release all of the police misconduct information, but the city’s police unions sued to prevent the documents from becoming public and the issue remains in limbo. The case will eventually be decided by an Illinois appeals court. The emergency order comes in the wake of a large public outcry following the release of the video that shows police officer James Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder hours before the video’s release. Kalven and his attorney, Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor, played a critical role in the release of the dash-cam footage by reporting on the video’s existence and demanding that officials release it. Reuters, Britain joins Syria air war; Putin vows more sanctions on Turkey, Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Osborn, Dec. 3, 2015. Britain joined U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Syria on Thursday, but Vladimir Putin issued bitter new denunciations of Turkey for shooting down a Russian plane, demonstrating the limits to international solidarity. British Tornado jets took off from the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri in Cyprus before dawn, hours after parliament in London voted 397-223 to support Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to extend air strikes from Iraq to Syria. Britain said they struck oil fields used to fund Islamic State. Although the British vote adds negligible new military capability to the coalition, it took on outsized political and diplomatic significance since gunmen and bombers killed 130 people last month in Paris. Russia is bombing Syria outside the U.S.-led coalition. Moscow and Tehran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States and its European, Arab and Turkish allies want him gone and back his enemies. BBC, Putin: Turkey 'will regret' downing Russian bomber in Syria, Staff report, Dec. 3, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin has castigated Turkey's leaders, warning that they will regret shooting down a Russian Su-24 bomber in Syria. In a state of the nation speech, broadcast live on Russian television, he said that "if anyone thinks Russia's reaction will be limited to trade sanctions, they are deeply mistaken." "We'll remind them again what they did -- they will regret it." Turkey insists that its F-16 fighters shot down the Su-24 because the bomber had trespassed into its airspace. Mr. Putin scorned them, saying "probably Allah alone knows why they did it. "And evidently Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey, by depriving it of any reason or logic." "We know who in Turkey is stuffing his pockets and letting the terrorists prosper," Mr Putin said. On Wednesday Russia's defense ministry displayed satellite images it said showed columns of trucks loaded with oil crossing from IS territory in Iraq and Syria into Turkey. Comparing Russia's campaign with the World War Two struggle against Nazism, Mr Putin said "we are facing a destructive, barbaric ideology… we need a single powerful fist, a united front" against IS. "Each civilized state should contribute to routing the terrorists," he said. PressTV, Iraq PM: Deploying US ground troops "act of aggression,' staff report, Dec. 3, 2015. The Iraqi prime minister warns that Baghdad would consider any foreign troop deployment to Iraq a act of aggression. Heidar al-Abadi says the government has NOT requested any foreign ground troops from any countries. Abadi on Tuesday also stressed that Iraq does not need foreign ground troops. His remarks are viewed as a response to US Army Colonel Steve Warren who said around 100 special operations troops will be deployed to Iraq. According to Warren the new troops will assist in the campaign against Daesh in Iraq. The commandos will join the 3500 US soldiers already deployed in Iraq. The US-led campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria has widely been criticized for ineffectiveness. Antiwar.com, Killer Drone News Blackout Continues as Mainstream Media Ignore Four Whistleblowers, John Hanrahan, Dec. 3, 2015. The polls show it and commentators of all political stripes often cite the figures: Killer drone attacks by the U.S. military and the CIA in the Greater Middle East and Africa have strong US public support. According to the Pew Research Center’s most recent poll in May, 58 percent – up slightly from 56 percent in February 2013 – approve of “missile strikes from drones to target extremists in such countries as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” The numbers of Americans disapproving of drone attacks actually increased from 26 percent to 35 percent over that two-year period – a hopeful sign, but still very much a minority view. But how well informed can US citizens be on this subject when the major news media time and again ignore or underreport drone-strike stories – as we have discussed here and here in recent weeks? Stories – such as The Intercept’s October series based on a trove of classified materials provided by a national security whistleblower – that would likely raise serious questions about the drone program in many more Americans’ minds if they were actually given the information? AFP via Yahoo, IS child soldiers kill captives in gruesome video, Staff report, Dec. 3, 2015. he Islamic State group on Thursday posted online a gruesome video showing six of its child soldiers killing Syrian security forces held captive by the jihadists. Titled "To the Sons of Jews," the slickly-produced video shows dozens of boys, who appeared to be about 10 years old, studying religious texts and learning hand-to-hand combat. Six of the boys are chosen by their instructor to "send a message" to IS's opponents by executing security forces held by the group. IS's "Cubs of the Caliphate" program provides intense military and religious training to children throughout the jihadist group's areas of control in Syria. In the video, each of the six selected boys is depicted individually running through a crumbling fortress, with dramatic music and grim action shots, until he finds a captive. Footage appears of each captive giving his name, his year of birth and describing his role in the security forces or in pro-government militia. The boys are then each shown killing the captives. Five are shot to death, and one has his throat slit. Washington Post, Before Senate win, Rubio turned political ‘juice’ into personal profits, Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 3, 2015. As Marco Rubio considered his options for a new career after stepping down as Florida House speaker, he found that the housing bust had depleted demand for the kind of land-use law he had practiced in the past. But Rubio quickly discovered that his experience as a high-ranking lawmaker could be a lucrative calling card. Rubio’s business deals during the period between his Tallahassee and Washington chapters demonstrated the ways he leveraged his enduring power inside government to make a profit on the outside. And they add to the contradictory picture of his personal finances that has emerged as his presidential campaign has gained traction — of a young man who struggled financially even as his personal income soared along with this political success. This account is based on a Washington Post review of public records as well as previously unreported depositions recorded by Florida ethics officials who investigated a complaint filed by a political critic who, among other things, alleged that the former speaker had scored clients as remuneration for his legislative support. The inquiry found no evidence to support the allegation. Dec. 2 Al.com, Blog says Alabama police planted drugs, weapons on black men; chief denies claims, Erin Edgemon Dec. 2, 2015. About 15 current or former Dothan police officers planted drugs and weapons on young black men for several years, an Alabama organization alleges on its blog. The Alabama Justice Project, through its news blog the Henry County Report, claims high level officials with the Dothan Police Department and District Attorney Doug Valeska covered up the allegations that spanned from 1996 to at least 2004 and an internal affairs investigation. Dothan Police Chief Steven Parrish said the allegations contained in the Henry County Report article are false. "An attempt has been made to not only discredit me, but the Dothan Police Department; the 20th Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office; and past employees of this agency by accusing members of this agency of criminal activity and others of covering up such activity," he stated in a press release. In an interview with AL.com, the writer of the article, Jon B. Carroll, said about two months ago, two police officers gave him copies of 858 files from the Dothan Police Department's internal affairs division. Washington Post, 14 killed in Calif. shooting, 2 suspects, a man and woman, dead after gunfight with police, Mark Berman, Elahe Izadi and Wesley Lowery, Dec. 2, 2015. The suspects, who police said were armed with assault rifles and handguns, are thought to have launched an attack hours earlier, killing 14 and injuring 17 others at a nonprofit facility in San Bernardino where a holiday party for county employees was underway. The San Bernardino suspects: A couple with a baby, Yanan Wang and Justin Wm. Moyer, Dec. 2, 2015. Farook and Malik were said to have taken their 6-month-old daughter to her grandmother's home the morning of the shooting, saying they had a doctor's appointment. Washington Post, The San Bernardino rampage was the 355th mass shooting this year, Christopher Ingraham, Dec. 2, 2015. By one definition of mass shooting — incidents in which at least four people are injured or killed by gunfire — there have on average been slightly more than one each day in 2015. Reuters, Iraqi politicians, militias warn Abadi against U.S. force deployment, Ahmed Rasheed, Dec. 2, 2015. Iraq's ruling alliance and powerful Shi'ite militias say Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would be digging his own political grave and undermining the fight against Islamic State if he permits the deployment of a new U.S. special operations force in the country. Washington said on Tuesday it would send troops, expected to number around 200, to Iraq to conduct raids against the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim militants who have seized swathes of the country's north and west and neighboring Syria. Abadi said hours later that any such deployment would require his government's consent. National Press Club, Air Force secretary cites air power success against ISIS, but sees strains on the smallest force since 1947, Dec. 2, 2015. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James underlined the importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the fight against Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the terrorist organization ISIS, in a National Press Club luncheon speech Dec. 2. James, just returned from a tour of the Middle East, Africa and Europe, said that Air Force commanders in war zones are asking for more “ISR,” as she termed the three information-gathering activities. The information forms the basis of the daily Air Targeting Orders that control air strikes against the terrorists, she said. Targeting, she explained, begins with study and collection of data, which commanders analyze to form assessments of the prospects for success of individual sorties. s evidence, she cited the diminished size of the Daesch area of operation. It has been reduced by 20 percent to 25 percent from a year ago, she said. Dec. 1 Washington Post, Chicago mayor fires police chief after death of black teenager, Mark Berman, Dec. 1, 2015. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (shown in a file photo) fired Garry F. McCarthy, the head of the Chicago Police Department, amid widespread criticism over how authorities responded to a white police officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald last year. Guardian, US announces 'expeditionary force' to target Isis in Iraq and Syria, Dan Roberts, Dec. 1, 2015. Permanent group based in Iraq but capable of cross-border raids will function independently of local troops, defense secretary Ash Carter says. A permanent new US “expeditionary force” will target Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, operating independently of local troops in Iraq and Syria for the first time, defense secretary Ash Carter (shown in an official) has revealed, in a significant escalation of the frontline use of American ground troops in the region. Addressing Congressional leaders who are demanding swifter progress against Isis, Carter said on Tuesday that the troops would be based in Iraq but will have the capability to carry out raids across the border. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria,” he said. “You don’t know at night who is going to be coming in the window.” Until now, US ground forces in the region have officially been restricted to a “training and support” mission for the Iraqi army and a handful of one-off special forces raids to free hostages. Kurdish fighters have told the Guardian that US forces in Iraq have secretly been blurring this line for months by taking an increasingly active role on the frontline, but the creeping ground mission once expressly ruled out by Barack Obama now seems to be spreading to Syria. Obama recently authorised the deployment of 50 special forces troops to Syria, but promised they were expected to work mainly alongside rebels on that side of the border. Carter refused to disclose the size of the new independent expeditionary targeting unit but said it would be larger than Obama’s embedded special forces deployment and would also provide targeting intelligence for air. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, also revealed that he was encouraging US military commanders in Iraq to go beyond the president’s current force limit of 3,500 troops in the country. Washington Post, Obama defends his Syria strategy to defeat Islamic State, Steven Mufson, Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe, Dec. 1, 2015. President Obama laid out his case once again for his Syria strategy built around a combination of military air power to degrade the Islamic State and diplomatic pressure to push out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama was in Paris on Tuesday for a major summit on climate change in which he voiced optimism that the world was moving toward a solution to the global problem. "The main message I got is that I actually think we are going to solve this thing," he said of the climate initiative. When it came to fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the president did not muster the same optimism. He expressed confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin could alter his strategy in Syria and ultimately support a political solution there that includes the exit of Assad. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF launches international appeal for release of Cumhuriyet journalists, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2015. At a press conference held in partnership with the Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC) today in Istanbul, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched an international appeal for the release of Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül and all their fellow journalists unjustly detained in Turkey. The list of initial signatories, consisting of NGOs and international public figures, has been posted on RSF’s website. The general public can support the appeal by signing the petition in English, Turkish and French at this address. Editor's Note: The Justice Integrity Project is among petition signers. The signatories accuse the Turkish authorities of “persecuting journalists of all colors in an increasingly ferocious manner” and urge them “to free Can Dündar and Erdem Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all other journalists who are currently detained in connection with their journalism or the opinions they have expressed.” They also condemn this spiral of oppression in “a country that is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.” “The Turkish authorities are targeting the wrong enemy,” RSF secretary¬general Christophe Deloire said. “The judicial system seems to prosecute journalists more often than the accomplices of Daesh (Islamic State). Turkey is a great country, with democratic institutions and a very open civil society. We appeal to the government, as a matter of honour, to restore all the conditions of pluralism, starting with freedom for journalists.” TGC president Turgay Olcayto added: “With globalization, the Turkish media’s problems could one day become the problems of western journalists. It is vital that we join forces to defend free journalism before it is too late.” The Indicter (Sweden), Many questions have still not been answered on the downing of the MH 17, Maj Wechselmann, Nov. 30, 2015. Maj Wechselmann, a member of The Indicter’s editorial board, is a Swedish author and prize-winner film director and documentary producer. Few airplane crashes have caused such a big attention as the crash of the Malaysian plane MH17 in eastern Ukraine. The plane fell in the area of the separatists. The theories and accusations about who shot it down and murdered 295 passengers must be seen in the perspective of elapsed time: It took the commission, the Dutch Safety Board one year and three months to investigate the crash, and yet the “black boxes” were neither harmed or opened when delivered to the international authorities only four days after the crash. Yet the commission cannot – even today – name the perpetrator. Let´s begin with the accusations against the Dutch Safety Board itself. The first allegation is directed against the composition and constitution of The Dutch Safety Board. Holland immediately took the lead role. However, according to international rules under IATA (International Air Transport Association) Malaysia, is the first authorized country to participate in the commission Malaysia was initially – illegitimately – excluded from the inquiry for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained. Holland is a member of NATO, and the commission can therefore easily be blamed of being biased. A second accusation against the investigators: ignoring the fact of a possible false flag operation criminally done by the Ukrainian authorities. Shadowfront, Libya’s Collapse Proves Hillary Clinton Learned Nothing From Iraq War, Dan Wright, Nov. 24, 2015. In October 2002, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York voted to authorize the Iraq War. In fact, Senator Clinton went beyond just voting for the bill; she took to the Senate floor and made an impassioned speech accusing then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction and providing sanctuary to Al Qaeda. Clinton also made it clear in her speech that she knew her vote could very well lead to war, but she would still “cast it with conviction.” The war that followed in 2003 is likely to go down as one of the greatest military blunders in US history, if not one of the country’s greatest crimes. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, trillions of dollars spent, and the sowing of local and regional instability that further empowered Iran and led to the rise of ISIS. And, of course, no weapons of mass destruction to be found. But in 2014, now a former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton changed her position again and said in her book “Hard Choices” that “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.” But did she learn anything from the Iraq War? The answer appears to be no. In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the charge by the Obama Administration to begin a military campaign in Libya. US and NATO forces helped Libyan rebels overthrow the government led by Muammar Gaddafi. The justification was to prevent a massacre that was supposedly imminent in Benghazi, Libya. Clinton maneuvered behind the scenes to keep the NATO coalition together, as well as promote regime change as the ultimate goal. After the war, she claimed that “we set into motion a policy that was on the right side of history, on the right side of our values, on the right side of our strategic interests in the region.” Gaddafi, who fled after the fall of his government, was eventually found, then tortured and killed by the rebels — something Clinton apparently found amusing when, in an interview with CBS News, she paraphrased Julius Caesar in regards to Gaddafi, chuckling “We came, we saw, he died.” Once again, Hillary Clinton had backed the violent overthrow of a government in the Middle East, and, once again, the results would ultimately be a nightmare for both the region and the US. As Hillary Clinton makes yet another attempt to assume the imperial presidency, it is worth keeping in mind that she apparently is unwilling or unable to learn anything from the horrendous blunders she has championed in the past. Are you ready for more?. ISIS members marching in Raqqa, January 2014 Defense One, Allen Quits ISIS War Envoy Job, One Year After Calling for Group’s Destruction, Kevin Baron, Sept. 22, 2015. Kevin Baron is executive editor of Defense One. He is also national security/military analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. The retired general begged President Obama to “destroy” ISIS and was then appointed to help do it. More than a year after publicly pressing President Barack Obama to “destroy” the Islamic State with swift and decisive American military intervention in Iraq and Syria, retired Gen. John Allen reportedly will step down from the special-envoy job created to do just that. Allen leaves behind an arguably more powerful and influential ISIS and a White House once again searching for a new strategy. Obama tapped Allen with the title of special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL following Allen’s war cries in 2014. First seen as the leader of the ISIS effort, Allen quickly faded from spotlight as he went to work building the coalition while ISIS continued to win territory, resources and tens of thousands of recruits from the region to its fight. Allen, 61, was retired from uniform and serving the Pentagon as a go-between for Israeli and Palestinian defense leaders for the Middle East peace process in August 2014. He was on his way to the Pentagon to resign that post and begin as co-director of a new Brooking Institute security center when Secretary of State John Kerry called him with a new command: help put together the anti-ISIS coalition. Allen never shied from public attention, but was not a war general in the vein of Gens. Norman Schwarzkopf or David Petraeus. The war’s top commander remains U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Lloyd Austin, in Tampa, Fla, who rarely appears in public or speaks to the media about his wartime command. Mostly, Allen continued quietly as a warrior-diplomat working in the Middle East. Prev Next jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var caption = $('.item-image .caption').attr('title'); $('.item-image .caption').parent().append(' ' + caption + ' '); }); Mission Statement Andrew Kreig JIP Director The Justice Integrity Project (JIP) researches official misconduct Get New Articles by Email Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner Latest News Privacy Dangers New York Times, C.I.A. Developed Tools to Spy on Mac Computers, WikiLeaks Disclosure Shows Technology, Vindu Goel, March 23, 2017. The C.I.A. developed tools to spy on Mac computers by injecting software into the chips that control the computers’ fundamental operations, according to the latest cache of classified government documents published on Thursday by WikiLeaks. Apple said in a statement Thursday evening that its preliminary assessment of the leaked information indicated that the Mac vulnerabilities described in the disclosure were previously fixed in all Macs launched after 2013. However, the documents also indicated that the Central Intelligence Agency was developing a new version of one tool last year to work with current software. The leaked documents were the second batch recently released by WikiLeaks, which said it obtained a hoard of information on the agency’s cyberweapons programs from a former government worker or contractor. The first group of documents, published March 7, suggested that the C.I.A. had found ways to hack Apple iPhones and Android smartphones, Microsoft Windows computers, Cisco routers and Samsung smart televisions. Since the initial release of the C.I.A. documents, which the agency has not confirmed are authentic, major technology companies have been scrambling to assess whether the security holes exploited by the C.I.A. still exist and to patch them if they do. March 22 Health Insurance Vote Roll Call, Republican Members Opposed to GOP Health Care Bill, Lindsey McPherson, March 22, 2017. If the tally stands, it's enough to sink bill on House floor. CQ Roll Call has confirmed the following members as “no” votes on the American Health Care Act, absent further changes. If this tally stands on the floor, the bill will fail. Intelligence Intrigues Washington Post, Trump communications may have been ‘incidentally’ intercepted, Nunes says, Karoun Demirjian​, March 22, 2017. House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said U.S. intelligence agencies may have picked up communications involving President Trump as part of court-approved surveillance of foreign intelligence targets in the period between Trump’s election and his inauguration. Palmer Report Opinion, Devin Nunes just unwittingly outed Paul Ryan as a conspirator in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2017. Devin Nunes (shown in a file photo), a useful idiot who has no idea how politics works despite having been in Congress for fourteen years, set his career on fire today for no apparent reason. He got his hands on classified Trump-Russia intel through unofficial channels, and instead of following proper channels, he went running to Donald Trump and then to the media. But the real story of the day is who told him to do it: Speaker Paul Ryan. Procedurally, as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes should have taken the information to his committee’s ranking member Adam Schiff. Then they could have jointly taken it to the FBI to verify if it was real. That kind of bipartisanship would give them both cover for however they decided to proceed with it next. Instead, Nunes went running straight to the House leader of his own party, Paul Ryan. This was an inappropriate move, but perhaps he was merely unsure of his footing and he wanted advice from a trusted colleague. But what happened next is the real story. Paul Ryan, who has long cynically demonstrated that he understands how politics and government work, knew full well that the only appropriate advice he could offer Nunes would be to redirect him back to Schiff. Instead, according to various accounts, Ryan (shown in an official photo) made no effort to stop Nunes from running straight to Donald Trump with the evidence. In so doing, Ryan was certainly aware that he was committing obstruction of justice. Ryan sent Nunes to deliver secret evidence in a crucial FBI investigation directly to the subject of that investigation. That’s Obstruction 101. And while Nunes might honestly be too dumb to have understood as much, Ryan knew better. So why did he do it? The only explanation is that Paul Ryan himself is a conspirator in the Trump-Russia scandal. New York Times, Roger Stone, the ‘Trickster’ on Trump’s Side, Maggie Haberman, March 22, 2017. In President Trump’s oft-changing world order, Roger J. Stone Jr., the onetime political consultant and full-time provocateur, has been one of the few constants — a loyalist and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who nurtured the dream of a presidential run by the developer-turned-television-star for 30 years. But two months into the Trump presidency, Mr. Stone, known for his pinstripe suits, the Nixon tattoo spanning his shoulder blades and decades of outlandish statements, is under investigation for what would be his dirtiest trick — colluding with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton and put his friend in the White House. Now under scrutiny by both F.B.I. and Senate investigators, Mr. Stone has hired two lawyers to represent him. But in an interview, Mr. Stone maintained that this was “a scandal with no evidence.” “There is still not an iota of proof that anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians,” said Mr. Stone, who met Mr. Trump through their mutual mentor, the McCarthy-era fixer and lawyer Roy M. Cohn. Mr. Stone learned from Mr. Cohn that all press is good press, and to hit back, hard and often, and he is doing just that. His recent book, “The Making of the President 2016,” is part paean to Mr. Trump and part pushback against the claims related to Russia. While promoting the book, Mr. Stone has said he believes his communications were monitored by the government, and he supports Mr. Trump’s contention that there must have been surveillance of him as a candidate. His own writings mirror, and perhaps feed into, Mr. Trump’s belief that there is a broad intelligence community effort to undermine the current White House. He tweeted in protest of “smears” that he wanted to respond to during Monday’s hearing. CNN, New lawsuit accuses Saudi government of involvement in 9/11, Ellie Kaufman and Kristina Sgueglia, March 22, 2017. Families of 850 victims who died on 9/11 and 1,500 people injured that day are suing the Saudi government, accusing it of providing material and financial assistance to al Qaeda for years leading up to the worst terrorist attack on US soil. It's one of largest 9/11-related lawsuits to be filed since Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act over a presidential veto in September. The act allows American citizens to bring lawsuits against states or countries accused of sponsoring terrorist attacks in the United States. The complaint, filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that the Saudi government, through its ministries and officials and a vast network of charities linked to the government, provided financial, practical and material support to al Qaeda. "9/11 could not have happened without Saudi Arabia's support for al Qaeda," Jim Kreindler, attorney and co-chairman of the plaintiffs' committee, told CNN. CNN has reached out to representatives for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia but hasn't received a response. Saudi Arabia has denied any role in the September 11 attacks and has never been formally implicated, but 15 of the 19 hijackers that carried them out were of Saudi descent. The complaint cites parts of FBI and CIA reports, including the "28 pages," a declassified document released in July that found that some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with and received support from individuals likely connected to the Saudi government. An earlier suit that is seeking class-action status represents the families of 1,400 victims who perished in the attacks. It has been the subject of an ongoing court battle since 2004 -- before passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act -- and was held up at times in part because it named Saudi Arabia as a defendant. The original suit was amended Friday to consolidate with insurance companies seeking reimbursement for property damages, and those injured seeking damages. Together, these two suits represent the majority of the victims in the terror attacks suing the kingdom. Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day. Trump Transition: Labor Dept. Nominee Washington Post, Acosta to face questions on his work record, plans for defending workers, Jonnelle Marte, March 22, 2017. Lawmakers may probe Acosta's work history — paying particular attention to his time at the civil rights division of the Justice Department — to seek clues as to how he would run the Labor Department. Terrorist Attack In London Washington Post, Attacker kills 3, injures 20 in vehicle and knife assault near British Parliament, Mike DeBonis, Juliet Eilperin and David Weigel, March 22, 2017. An assailant fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates to Britain’s Parliament compound Wednesday after plowing a vehicle through terrified pedestrians along a landmark bridge. The attacker was shot and killed by police, but not before claiming a total of three lives in what appeared to be Europe’s latest high-profile terrorist attack. Personal details about the suspected attacker were not immediately made public. Police said the man traced a deadly path across the Westminster Bridge, running down people with an SUV, then ramming the vehicle into the fence encircling Parliament. More than 20 people were reported injured. Washington Post, Britons are denouncing Donald Trump Jr.’s attack on London’s mayor, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 22, 2017. Donald Trump Jr. took a break on Wednesday from defending his father's agenda on Twitter to weigh in on the attack outside the British Parliament that left four people dead, including a police officer and the alleged assailant. The president's oldest child took aim at Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who was quoted last year by the Independent, a London newspaper, saying terrorism preparedness had to become part of the fabric of major cities. That message took on new meaning Wednesday as an attacker drove his car through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then fatally stabbed an officer at the gates of Parliament. House Health Insurance Vote Washington Post, GOP health-care plan, facing conservative revolt, lacks the votes for House passage, The Republican health-care overhaul suffered a significant setback as personal appeals by both the president and vice president failed to sway conservatives to back the bill. A spokeswoman for the House Freedom Caucus said that “more than 25” members of the group oppose the bill. The Republican health-care overhaul spearheaded by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and backed by President Trump suffered a significant setback Wednesday, as personal appeals by both the president and vice president failed to sway conservatives to back the bill. In a last-ditch effort to persuade key GOP opponents of the bill to stand down, Vice President Pence huddled with members of the House Freedom Caucus in his office Wednesday morning, while Trump met with 18 House Republicans at the White House. While Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who met with Trump, came out in favor of the bill Wednesday, that single switch was not enough to put the measure over the top. GOP leaders can afford only 22 defections, given that one Democrat is expected to be absent Thursday. A Freedom Caucus spokeswoman said Wednesday that “more than 25” members of the group oppose the bill. Supreme Court Nomination Washington Post, Democrats probe Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch on his independence from Trump, Elise Viebeck, Robert Barnes and Ed O'Keefe, March 22, 2017. Democratic senators pressed Judge Neil Gorsuch to explain his views on issues such as the Constitution’s emoluments clause and the notion of "high crimes and misdemeanors." ​ Videos of JFK Assassination Experts At News Conference Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), At CAPA Forum, JFK Experts See Need, Momentum Forum Assassination Records Release, Staff report, March 22, 2017. Videos of March 16 news conference at the National Press Club by independent film maker Randy Benson, producer/director of The Searchers documentary on JFK assassination witnesses and researchers. Around the Nation Palmer Report, Hawaii Republican Leader Beth Fukumoto quits Republican Party over Donald Trump, joins Democrats, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2017. Just how much damage is the increasingly unpopular and toxically scandalous Donald Trump doing to the Republican Party? Well, for one thing, the leader of the Hawaii Republican Party just decided to become a Democrat. Representative Beth Fukumoto, who until recently had been the Republican Minority Leader in the Hawaii House of Representatives, concluded there wasn’t enough room for her and Trump in the same party – so she officially resigned from her own party today. Beth Fukumoto posted a YouTube video today announcing her resignation from the Republican Party, effective immediately. But she’s not giving up her legislative seat. Instead she’s seeking membership in the Democratic Party. She had long been pushing back against Donald Trump’s openly racist and xenophobic policies, which had led to friction with some of her fellow Republicans in the Hawaii Legislature. And now she’s had enough. Whistleblower Chief Smacked Washington Post, Trump withdraws reappointment nomination of popular whistleblower advocate, Joe Davidson, March 22, 2017. An important refuge from management retaliation for federal truth tellers — a.k.a. whistleblowers — is the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), a small, understaffed independent agency that regularly challenges the biggest dudes on the block. But now, whistleblowers and their advocates are worried that the office’s vigilance under Carolyn Lerner could be endangered by President Trump’s notice to the Senate “withdrawing from further Senate consideration” her reappointment nomination. This worry is fueled by the Trump administration’s early agency gag orders, as well as the stern White House rebuke of State Department workers who complained — on an approved, internal dissent channel — about Trump’s first immigration executive order left a chill. The “new administration hasn’t demonstrated any tolerance for those who dissent against its actions,” said Tom Devine, legal counsel of the Government Accountability Project, which represents whistleblowers. March 21 Washington Post, Supreme Court nominee faces grilling from senators during Day Two of confirmation hearings, Robert Barnes, Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan​, March 21, 2017. Democrats, still angry over the circumstances of Neil Gorsuch's nomination, plan to aggressively question the appeals judge 9shown in a file photo from February). But Democrats are outnumbered 52-48 in the Senate, and it is unclear how hard they want to fight. Washington Post, Documents show Trump aide hid payments from Ukraine party with Russia ties, lawmaker alleges, Andrew Roth, March 21, 2017. Paul Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign manager in August after his name surfaced next to payments totaling $12.7 million in a registry of secret payments from the Party of Regions called the “black ledger.” Manafort has denied receiving those payments. A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan. The new documents may revive questions about the ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014. He is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges. Manafort, who worked for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions for nearly a decade, resigned from Trump’s campaign in August after his name surfaced in connection with secret payments totaling $12.7 million by Yanukovych’s party. Manafort has denied receiving those, listed in the party’s “black ledger.” Health Insurance Vote Roll Call, McConnell Warns Republicans Against Voting Against GOP Health Care Bill, Eric Garcia, March 21, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a warning Tuesday to Republicans considering voting against the GOP repeal of the 2010 health care law on Thursday. “I would hate to be a Republican whose vote prevented us from keeping the commitment we’ve made to the American people for almost 10 years now,” McConnell (shown in an official photo) said in an interview with The Associated Press. The Kentucky Republican said he expected President Donald Trump to convince reluctant Republicans to support the repeal. “The president has been very effective in helping in the House with the health care bill,” he said. “And we intend, once it comes over from the House, to have the president weigh in with our folks as well.” Washington Post, Trump’s closing pitch underwhelms, Jennifer Rubin, March 21, 2017. President Trump’s breathtaking lack of interest in or grasp of policy made his appearance on Capitol Hill in favor of Trumpcare pathetically underwhelming. The Post reports: "Assuring Republicans they would gain seats if they passed the bill, the president told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to stand up and take some advice. But after the meeting, Meadows told reporters that the president had not made the sale, that the call-out was good-natured and that conservative holdouts would continue to press for a tougher bill. “I’m still a ‘no,’” he said. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.” Even for Trump, his vapidity was striking. And, laughably, he let it be known it’s all about him and his thirst for approval. ( “‘We won’t have these crowds if we don’t get this done,’ he said, referring to his Monday night rally in Kentucky.”) Huffington Post, Trump Fails To Close Deal On Health Care Repeal, Michael McAuliff and Matt Fuller, March 21, 2017. The president told the House GOP there will be primaries if his repeal fails, but conservatives said they “do not have the votes.” President Donald Trump made a personal pitch for his Affordable Care Act repeal bid Tuesday, promising that Republicans who vote against the bill will face political consequences. With a House vote on the Republican plan set for Thursday, both more moderate and more conservative lawmakers are raising serious objections and questions about whether the bill can pass. Trump argued that the party’s future ― and by extension, his legacy ― is on the line. And if members did not fall in line, especially the conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus, Republicans would pay a price. “If the Freedom Caucus kills this bill, which they could, then they will have voted to continue Obamacare, which, as the president pointed out, in 2018 probably means we would lose the House and the Senate,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). “This is do or die on Thursday for the Republicans in the midterm election,” Collins said. Trump Labor Secretary Nomination Washington Post, Labor nominee Acosta cut deal with billionaire guilty in sex abuse case, Marc Fisher​, March 21, 2017. President Trump is a witness in a lawsuit over how federal prosecutors, including Alexander Acosta, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, handled the accusations against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. On eve of hearing, questions linger over whether labor nominee will stand up for workers. There was once a time — before the investigations, before the sexual abuse conviction — when rich and famous men loved to hang around with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire money manager who loved to party. They visited his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. They flew on his jet to join him at his private estate on the Caribbean island of Little Saint James. They even joked about his taste in younger women. President Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” back in 2002, saying that “he’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Now, Trump is on the witness list in a Florida court battle over how federal prosecutors handled allegations that Epstein, 64, sexually abused more than 40 minor girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17. The lawsuit questions why Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday, cut a non-prosecution deal with Epstein a decade ago rather than pursuing a federal indictment that Acosta’s staff had advocated. Although Epstein’s friends and visitors once included past and future presidents, rock stars, and some of the country’s richest men, he is no longer a social magnet. Epstein pleaded guilty to a Florida state charge of felony solicitation of underage girls in 2008 and served a 13-month jail sentence. Politicians who had accepted his donations, including former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, have scurried to give them back. (Harvard University kept a $6.5 million gift, saying it was “funding important research” in mathematics.) But Epstein’s unusually light punishment — he was facing up to a life sentence had he been convicted on federal charges — has raised questions about how Acosta handled the case. Former Palm Beach police chief Michael Reiter, whose department conducted the initial investigation into Epstein’s behavior, said in a civil lawsuit deposition that Epstein got off easy. “That wasn’t an appropriate resolution of this matter,” Reiter said, arguing that the charges leveled against Epstein were “very minor,” compared with what the facts called for. In a letter to parents of Epstein’s victims, Reiter said justice had not been served. Prosecutors in Acosta’s Miami office who had joined the FBI in the investigation concluded, according to documents produced by the U.S. attorney’s office, that Epstein, working through several female assistants, “would recruit underage females to travel to his home in Palm Beach to engage in lewd conduct in exchange for money. . . . Some went there as much as 100 times or more. Some of the women’s conduct was limited to performing a topless or nude massage while Mr. Epstein masturbated himself. For other women, the conduct escalated to full sexual intercourse.” Around the Nation Center for Public Integrity, Powerful South Carolina political consultant implicated in indictments of a veteran state senator, Glenn Smith and Andy Shaine, March 17, 2017. Investigation echoes findings of Capitol Gains series. A powerful South Carolina political consultant featured in a Center for Public Integrity/Post and Courier investigation is implicated in indictments accusing a state senator of pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations for his personal use. Sen. John Courson of Columbia is charged with three counts: two for misconduct in office and one for converting campaign cash for personal expenses. A bond hearing date has not been set. Courson, 72, is accused of funneling nearly $250,000 from his campaign war chest through the political consulting firm of First Impressions, doing business as Richard Quinn and Associates, according to the indictments. The Quinn company then shifted about $133,000 of that money back to Courson through multiple transactions, the charging documents allege. Trump Team Conflicts? Palmer Report, Paul Manafort funneled his Russian payments through bank owned by Trump’s pal Dmitry Rybolovlev, Bill Palmer, March 23, 2017. Here’s a connection that perhaps we should all have seen coming. Just one day after it was finally confirmed that Paul Manafort had indeed taken millions of dollars in payments from a Kremlin intermediary, as had long been suspected, additional information is coming to light about how that money was funneled from Russia to Manafort. And it turns out to have been facilitated by one of Donald Trump’s Russian pals as well as one of Trump’s cabinet members. The Associated Press is now reporting that the money flowed from Russia to Paul Manafort by way of the Bank of Cyprus. If the name of this bank sounds familiar, it’s because four weeks ago Palmer Report pieced together that Wilbur Ross and Dmitry Rybolovlev both have (or had) ownership stakes in that bank. Ross was also the vice chair of the bank. Trump, JFK, CIA AlterNet, Is Trump Really at War with the CIA? The Jury Is Still Out, The president's upcoming decision on thousands of still-secret JFK records will be revealing, Jefferson Morley, March 22, 2017. From the fever swamp of Alex Jones' InfoWars, Jerome Corsi reports that "JFK researchers" are saying President Donald Trump is at risk for assassination because of his differences with the Central Intelligence Agency. I have been a JFK researcher for 35 years. Corsi has distorted what most of us think to serve a fear-mongering political agenda. "JFK researchers: Trump at risk for assassination" is a lousy piece of journalism, less a story than a conspiratorial meme. But it does reveal an important untold story about Trump and the CIA. As Corsi reports, the president faces a big JFK decision later this year. At a Sunshine Week conference on JFK assassination records, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on March 16, attorney Larry Schnapf made a hard-to-refute point: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is still a crucial story in American political life. The Invisible Government, a bestseller about the CIA written while JFK was still alive and published after his death, was an early statement of the "deep state" concept, now debated by pundits from Remnick to Greenwald to Gingrich. In his remarks, Schnapf likened President Trump's differences with the CIA to Kennedy's and speculated they could provoke a deadly response. “Donald Trump must understand the threat to his life from enemies within the Deep State is real," Schnapf said. Schnapf was extrapolating from a common suspicion about JFK's death. President Kennedy, a pro-civil rights, pro-peace president, was assassinated under mysterious circumstances in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. The belief that CIA personnel were involved in JFK's death is not proven. (Nor is it unfounded, as my forthcoming biography of legendary spook James Jesus Angleton will show.) March 21 Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s narcissistic misreading of FBI Director James Comey has cost him dearly, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2017. Too late now. There was a brief window, when Donald Trump first came into office, where he could have gotten away with firing James Comey (shown in an official photo). It would have been controversial, because you’re not supposed to fire the Director of the FBI without cause, but Comey was so widely hated by Democrats that Trump could have gotten away with it. But because Trump completely misread Comey, he’s now stuck with an FBI Director who’s tearing him limb from limb. For all we know, the egomaniacal Comey may have rigged the election in Trump’s favor just so he could go down in history as the guy who took down a traitorous president. Global News SouthFront, Russia Set Military Base In YPG-Held Area Of Afrin? Voiceover by Harold Hoover, March 21, 2017. Russia is setting up a military base in the Afrin canton area controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in northwestern Syria. The agreement on establishing the base was concluded on Sunday, according to YPG spokesman Redur Xelil. The base will reportedly be located at the village of Qatmah. Russian military servicemen have already arrived in the area with armoured vehicles, trucks, and troop carriers. According to the YPG spokesman, Russian military advisors will allegedly train YPG fighters and increase cooperation with the YPG in combating terrorism. {source}

March 20

FBI, NSA House Testimony On Russian Influence

Washington Post, After extraordinary hearing on FBI’s Russia probe, Trump is dealt his hardest truth, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, March 20, 2017. FBI director James Comey’s testimony on wiretapping and the Russia probe put the White House on the defensive, and threatens to damage the president’s credibility not only with voters, but also with lawmakers of his own party, On the 60th day of his presidency came the hardest truth for Donald Trump.

He was wrong. James B. Comey (shown in a file photo) — the FBI director whom Trump celebrated on the campaign trail as a gutsy and honorable “Crooked Hillary” truth-teller — testified under oath Monday what many Americans had already assumed: Trump had falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping his headquarters during last year’s campaign.

Russian FlagTrump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right.

But in Monday’s remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence. Trump’s claim, first made in a series of tweets on March 4 at a moment when associates said he was feeling under siege and stewing over the struggles of his young presidency, remains unfounded.

FBI logoComey did not stop there. He confirmed publicly that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and associates with Russia, part of an extraordinary effort by an adversary to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election in Trump’s favor.

Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as “fake news.” That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.

Washington Post, FBI chief confirms probe of possible coordination between Kremlin and Trump campaign, Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, March 20, 2017. James ComeyExtraordinary disclosure comes as Comey rejects Trump wiretapping claims. In a sprawling hearing, James B. Comey acknowledged the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.

The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Associated Press via Boston Globe, Comey confirms Russia inquiry, Staff report, March 20, 2017. FBI Director James Comey is publicly confirming for the first time that the FBI is investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia’s government.

FBI logoComey is testifying before Congress. He says he’s authorized by the Justice Department to make the disclosure. Typically, the FBI does not discuss or even confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.

Comey says the probe is part of the FBI’s counter-intelligence mission. He says the investigation includes the nature of any links between individuals associated with Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between Russia’s efforts and the campaign. Comey says the investigation will also look at whether crimes were committed. He says he can’t provide details about the investigation.

Foreign Policy Magazine, The Multibillion-Dollar U.S. Spy Agency You Haven’t Heard of, James Bamford, March 20, 2017. How President Trump might turn an all-seeing spy apparatus on innocent American citizens. On a heavily protected military base some 15 miles south of Washington, D.C., sits the massive headquarters of a spy agency few know exists. Even Barack Obama, five months into his presidency, seemed not to have recognized its name. While shaking hands at a Five Guys hamburger restaurant in Washington in May 2009, he asked a customer seated at a table about his job. “What do you [do]?” the president inquired. “I work at NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” the man answered. Obama appeared dumbfounded. “So, explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial…” he said, unable to finish the name. Eight years after that videotape aired, the NGA remains by far the most shadowy member of the Big Five spy agencies, which include the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Despite its lack of name recognition, the NGA’s headquarters is the third-largest building in the Washington metropolitan area, bigger than the CIA headquarters and the U.S. Capitol. Completed in 2011 at a cost of $1.4 billion, the main building measures four football fields long and covers as much ground as two aircraft carriers. In 2016, the agency purchased 99 acres in St. Louis to construct additional buildings at a cost of $1.75 billion to accommodate the growing workforce, with 3,000 employees already in the city.

Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

Washington Post, Gorsuch’s first day of hearings features sharp-edged differences alongside a familiar confirmation script, Robert Barnes,, Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan​, March 20, Neil Gorsuch2017. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (shown in a file photo) promised to remember the “modest station we judges are meant to occupy in a democracy” if he is elevated to the nation’s highest court, as the hearing began amid Democratic doubts about his impartiality and whether he should be before them in the first place.

Trump Approval At Historic Low

Huffington Post, Donald Trump’s Approval Rating Is In The Toilet, Mary Papenfuss, March 20, 2017. He hits a new low: 37 percent, the worst in 72 years of polling for a young President Donald Trump officialpresidency. President Donald Trump’s latest approval rating has sunk to a new low, according to the latest Gallup poll. Only 37 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing, and 58 percent disapprove, the daily poll found Sunday. Those are the worst ratings since he took office eight weeks ago. His approval rating stood at 45 percent just nine days ago.

Trump’s approval rating is lower than any other president at this point in his first term since Gallup started tracking the numbers 72 years ago in 1945. Barack Obama’s rating at this point in his presidency was 60 percent.  It’s not clear which of several issues may have torpedoed the president’s numbers.

It’s been a tough week for Trump. His health plan was zapped by the Congressional Budget Office, which revealed some 24 million Americans would be cut out of health insurance over the next decade. His revised travel ban was blocked again in court. And he’s being hammered over his insistence that he was wiretapped during the presidential campaign by Obama, despite what his own intelligence officers are saying and the findings of the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate.

New 9/11 Class Action Against Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian flag

BuzzFeed, Hundreds Of 9/11 Victims And Their Family Members Are Suing Saudi Arabia, Claudia Koerner, March 20, 2017. The lawsuit, which required an act of Congress to be filed, accuses members of the Saudi government of assisting the 9/11 hijackers. Ashton v. the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Case 1:17-cv-02003) was filed in the Manhattan federal courthouse of the Southern District of New York by the law firms Kreindler & Kreindler LLP and McGarry Salzman Penson & Lim.

The Hill, 9/11 victims suing Saudi Arabia: report, A collection of more than 800 people hurt by the 9/11 terrorism attacks have filed a lawsuit (Ashton v. the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) against Saudi Arabia for its role in the incident.The lawsuit includes people injured on Sept. 11, 2001, and those whose family members were killed in the attack, BuzzFeed said Monday.

Saudi Arabian flag

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages from the Saudi Arabian government, it continued, which they accuse of providing funds and support to al Qaeda. The lawsuit also accuses Saudi Arabia’s government of knowing that at least three of the 9/11 hijackers had ties to al Qaeda, BuzzFeed added.

“Saudi Arabia was duplicitous,” the suit said, noting its government did not notify the U.S. that the trio had passports marked with a secret indicator highlighting their al Qaeda ties.

“It presented a public face to the United States and other Western countries of a nation fighting al Qaeda and terrorism while at the same time, as detailed herein, Saudi government actors gave al Qaeda substantial material support and resources.”

Monday’s suit additionally argues the 9/11 attacks could not have occurred without Saudi involvement. “As a result, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is liable to plaintiffs for all damages resulting in the injuries and deaths in September 11th Attacks,” the suit said.

The legal action took years of work and the involvement of Congress before its materialization on Monday.Former President Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) last September, arguing it would undermine sovereign immunity. JASTA allows U.S. citizens to sue nations like Saudi Arabia in American courts even if they lack a state sponsor of terror designation.

Obama charged that the measure could produce reciprocal legislation overseas, exposing U.S. diplomats and military service members to similar legal action. The Senate ultimately overrode Obama’s veto last September in an overwhelming 97-1 vote.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks came from Saudi Arabia, inspiring victims and their families to seek legal restitution from the foreign nation. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks killed 2,977 — and the 19 airplane hijackers — while injuring more than 6,000 others.

First Daughter Takes Office

Associated Press, First daughter Ivanka Trump gets West Wing office, Catherine Lucey, March 20, 2017. Cementing her role as a powerful White House influence, Ivanka Trump is working out of a West Wing office and will get access to classified information, though she is not technically serving as a government employee, according to an attorney for the first daughter.

Since President Donald Trump took office, his eldest daughter has been a visible presence in the White House, where her husband, Jared Kushner, already serves as a senior adviser. On Friday, she participated in a meeting on vocational training with the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Jamie Gorelick, an attorney and ethics adviser for Ivanka Trump, said Monday that the first daughter will not have an official title, but will get a West Wing office, government-issued communications devices and security clearance to access classified information. Gorelick said Ivanka Trump would follow the ethics rules that apply to government employees.

"Our view is that the conservative approach is for Ivanka to voluntarily comply with the rules that would apply if she were a government employee, even though she is not," said Gorelick, who also helped Kushner with the legal strategy that led to his White House appointment. "The White House Counsel's Office agrees with that approach."

Ivanka Trump's role has already come under scrutiny because there is little precedent for a member of the first family with this kind of influence. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A person with knowledge of Ivanka Trump's thinking, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations, said she believes she can offer more independent perspective to her father by not serving as a White House staffer.

Around the Nation

New York Times, How to Con Black Law Students: A Case Study, Elie Mystal, March 20, 2017. This month, Bethune-Cookman, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Fla., announced an “affiliation” deal with Arizona Summit Law School, a for-profit institution in Phoenix. A joint scholarship program will send Bethune-Cookman students and students from other historically black colleges to the law school. Other programs, including intensive LSAT prep classes, have been announced as part of the deal.

Bethune-Cookman doesn’t have a law school, so it makes sense that it would want to partner with an accredited institution. But there’s a problem: Arizona Summit, formerly known as the Phoenix School of Law, may be accredited, but only 25 percent of its graduates passed the Arizona bar exam on their first try last year.

That’s an embarrassing result for any school. To compare, the law school at Arizona State posted a 77 percent pass rate for first-time test takers of the same bar. Statewide, 64 percent of first-time test takers passed. In other words, Arizona Summit’s results weren’t even in the ballpark of respectability.

Arizona Summit can’t blame the aptitude of its students for its low bar passage rate. The median LSAT score at Arizona Summit is 143, which is on the low end, but about the same as the median score at Florida A&M University College of Law. Still, over half of Florida A&M law school graduates passed the Florida bar last summer. And Florida A&M charges about $14,000 in yearly in-state tuition, a fraction of the cost of Arizona Summit, which charges about $45,000 in tuition and fees per year. That doesn’t include the cost for Bethune-Cookman students to move from Florida to Phoenix.

David

David Rockefeller

New York Times, David Rockefeller, Philanthropist and Head of Chase Manhattan, Dies at 101, Jonathan Kandell, March 20, 2017. David Rockefeller, the banker and philanthropist with the fabled family name who controlled Chase Manhattan bank for more than a decade and wielded vast influence around the world for even longer as he spread the gospel of American capitalism, died on Monday morning at his home in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He was 101.

David RockefellerChase Manhattan had long been known as the Rockefeller bank, although the family never owned more than 5 percent of its shares. But Mr. Rockefeller was more than a steward. As chairman and chief executive throughout the 1970s, he made it “David’s bank,” as many called it, expanding its operations internationally.

His stature was greater than any corporate title might convey, however. His influence was felt in Washington and foreign capitals, in the corridors of New York City government, in art museums, in great universities and in public schools.

Mr. Rockefeller could well be the last of a less and less visible family to have cut so imposing a figure on the world stage. As a peripatetic advocate of the economic interests of the United States and of his own bank, he was a force in global financial affairs and in his country’s foreign policy. He was received in foreign capitals with the honors accorded a chief of state.

JIP Editor's note: A chart showing some of his and his family's relationships is attached.

March 19

Intercept, For Donald Trump, a Terror Attack Will Be an Opportunity Not a Curse, Peter Maass, March 19, 2017. Among the alterations in American politics since Trump’s inauguration, this may be the most frightening one: a terror attack on U.S. soil will be used by the White House as an excuse for implementing an extra-legal agenda that could only be pushed through in a time of crisis.

What the courts will not allow today, what protesters will hit the streets to defend tomorrow, what even the pliant Congress would have a hard time backing — the White House is almost certainly counting on all of this changing in the wake of a domestic terrorist attack.

This macabre turn, in which terrorism becomes an opportunity rather than a curse, has ample precedents that tell us one thing: be prepared.

It wasn’t long ago that 9/11 was used as a pretext for invading Iraq. Although it was almost immediately clear that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told President George W. Bush on the evening of September 11, “Part of our response maybe should be attacking Iraq. It’s an opportunity.”

Just a few years earlier, Rumsfeld, along with Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, had signed a now-infamous letter calling for the removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The with-us-or-against-us atmosphere after 9/11 enabled them to carry out the task.

How Washington Works

U.S. Supreme Court Eight Members 2016Washington Post, Let’s start telling the truth about what the Supreme Court does, Brian Leiter, March 19, 2017. Brian Leiter is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Ordinary Americans may be understandably perplexed by the controversy over nominating a judge to the highest court in the land. Isn’t appointing a top judge like appointing a top chemist? You want someone technically competent and professionally responsible, and that is all.

But all lawyers and all political insiders making the choices know that is not so. Consider what is obvious: There is no difference in terms of qualifications and expertise between President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Why all the high political drama?

The answer is simple and has to do with the fact that law is not anything like science — and that what the Supreme Court does has little to do with the dispassionate application of clear laws to clear facts.

This should hardly be surprising. The court decides only about 80 cases each year and chooses those from 7,000 to 8,000 lower-court cases that parties want to appeal to the court. The Supreme Court chooses the most difficult among this vast array of lower-court cases to decide.

Given the complexity of the law and the complexity involved in saying what really happened in a given dispute, all judges, and especially those on the Supreme Court, often have to exercise a quasi-legislative power: They have to decide what should be done based on their own moral and political values, since existing legal standards conflict, or are indeterminate, or are silent on the problems they confront. The Supreme Court, as the final court of appeal in our system, is the super-legislature of last resort. And that is why Republicans blocked Garland’s nomination and why Trump chose Gorsuch. Republicans expected Garland to vote against their objectives on the super-legislature. Trump expects Gorsuch to vote with the Republicans.

None of this is controversial among insiders. Supreme Court nominations are controversial because the court is a super-legislature, and because its moral and political judgments are controversial. As a super-legislature, it has limited jurisdiction, depending on what cases are brought before it, but those cases are important enough. Just as no one would expect Republicans or Democrats to assent to appointments to the Senate without regard to political ideology, it is naive to expect anything similar in the case of nominations to the Supreme Court.

And that is why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would not let Garland be voted on last year and why Trump nominated Gorsuch. Perhaps it is time to tell the truth to the public so that we might have honest hearings about the moral and political views of the nominees.

JFK Facts.org, Now an audiobook: Oswald, the CIA & Mexico City (The Lopez Report), Jefferson Morley, March 19, 2017. Thanks to Dave Giglio, you can now listen to a key JFK assassination document: the HSCA report about Lee Oswald’s visit to Mexico City. Written by Ed Lopez and Dan Hardway, staffers for the House Select Committee on Assassination, the Lopez Report (as it is commonly known) was the first serious examination of the CIA’ machinations in September and October 1963 around the man who would be accused of killing President Kennedy six weeks later.

Lopez and Hardway’s probe showed the Warren Commission was largely ignorant and wholly clueless about Oswald’s visit to the Mexican capital. Their report became the foundation for subsequent works by journalist Anthony Summers, historian John Newman, and independent scholar Bill Simpich, which deepened and clarified the story that the Warren Commision missed.

They demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that Oswald’s visit was of deep interest to top CIA officials, belying the official story that Oswald was an unknown figure of only “routine” interest. They also showed that when questioned about Oswald, James Angleton, David Phillips, Ann Goodpasture, and Ann Egerter, among others, lied under oath.

Washington Post, White House installs political aides at Cabinet agencies to monitor loyalty, Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin​, March 19, 2017. The unusual shadow government of Donald Trump and Mike Pence logopolitical appointees, which reports to the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, is charged with making sure the secretaries and their staff members carry out President Trump’s agenda and stick to approved talking points, according to officials with knowledge of the arrangement.

The political appointee charged with keeping watch over Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides has offered unsolicited advice so often that after just four weeks on the job, Pruitt (shown in a file photo) has shut him out of many staff meetings, according to two senior administration officials.

Scott Pruitt EPAAt the Pentagon, they’re privately calling the former Marine officer and fighter pilot who’s supposed to keep his eye on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “the commissar,” according to a high-ranking defense official with knowledge of the situation. It’s a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal.

Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

These aides report not to the secretary, but to Rick Dearborn, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, according to administration officials. A top Dearborn aide, John Mashburn, leads a weekly conference call with the advisers, who are in constant contact with the White House.

Washington Post, Gorsuch hearings position Trump to begin reshaping the Supreme Court, Ed O'Keefe and Robert Barnes, March 19, 2017. Neil Gorsuch and his conservative Neil Gorsuchcredentials have earned broad support among Republicans. But Democrats remain angry about the 13-month vacancy created after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a hearing for Barack Obama’s pick to succeed Antonin Scalia. 

When Judge Neil Gorsuch (shown in an official photo) arrives on Capitol Hill on Monday morning to begin his confirmation hearings for a seat on the Supreme Court, he will give President Trump his first chance to make a lasting imprint on the federal judiciary — and Republicans a fresh test to work their will now that they control all of Washington’s levers of power.

Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge from Colorado, was promoted by conservative legal activists because of his sterling credentials, a decade of right-of-center rulings and his allegiance to the same brand of constitutional interpretation employed by the late justice he would replace, Antonin Scalia.

Palmer Report Analysis, Rex Tillerson makes things even worse while refuting reports he was “fatigued” in South Korea, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2017. This week a South Korean news outlet reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to cut short his diplomatic visit there because he was “fatigued.” Even as concerns about the health of Tillerson continue to grow with each overseas trip he takes, he’s stepped forward to offer a rare interaction with a reporter in order to push back against the sentiment – but in so doing, he’s only exacerbated the controversy.

Amid previous reports that Tillerson’s diplomatic trips have been scheduled around his need for excess sleep and naps, this latest incident set off a number of red flags. But now he’s told a reporter from the Independent Journal Review (essentially a mouthpiece for the Trump administration) that South Korea has the story all wrong. Tillerson’s explanation: “They never invited us for dinner, then at the last minute they realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well in public for them, so they put out a statement that we didn’t have dinner because I was tired.”

Around the Nation

Washington Post, Columnist Jimmy Breslin, bard of the New York streets, dies at 88, Paul Duggan, March 19, 2017. Jimmy Breslin, long the gruff and rumpled king of streetwise New York newspaper columnists, a Pulitzer Prize winner whose muscular, unadorned prose pummeled the venal, deflated the pompous and gave voice to ordinary city-dwellers for decades, died March 19 at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.

For an “unlettered bum,” as Mr. Breslin called himself, he left an estimable legacy of published work, including 16 books, seven of them novels, plus two anthologies of his columns.

What set him apart as a writer was the inimitable style of his journalism across the last great decades of ink-on-paper news, in the 1960s for the old New York Herald Tribune and later for the Daily News and the city pages of Long Island-based Newsday, where his final regular column appeared in 2004. Hard-nosed and lyrical, the Pulitzer Prize-winner took stock of his city from the bottom up.

Zero Hedge, Senator Hints That Trump May Resign: "I Think He Is Going To Get Himself Out," Tyler Durden, March 19, 2017. It’s no secret that there is a concerted effort underway to do everything possible to remove President Donald Trump from office.

From Russian ties to business conflicts of interests, both Democrats and Republicans are actively working to find chinks in the President’s armor. But for those with hope of Dianne Feinsteinchange in their hearts, Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein (shown in an official photo) says there is a possibility that Trump will eventually remove himself from office by filing his own resignation. Speaking to a crowd during a town hall-style Questions and Answers session, Feinstein was asked how Congress is going to deal with Trump’s alleged illegal activities:

Journalist: We don’t know what’s happening but we know that he is breaking laws every day, he’s making money at Mar-a-lago, he’s getting copyrights in China, he has obvious dealings with Russia, the Dakota pipeline… there’s some many things that he’s doing that are unconstitutional… how are we going to get him out?

Feinstein: We have a lot of people looking at this… Technical people… I think he’s going to get himself out… I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses… I think those government expenses should not be allowed.. we are working on a bill that will deal with conflict of interest… it’s difficult…

March 18

New York Times, In Rocky Week, Trump’s Self-Inflicted Chaos on Display, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, March 18, 2017. President Trump had plenty of meaty legislative challenges to address, including the Republican health care plan and his first budget. Yet he kept getting sidetracked by controversies of his own making.

Minutes before President Trump was to take the stage in Nashville last week to make his case for the health care overhaul he had promised, he received some unwelcome news that shifted his script.

President Donald Trump officialA Federal District Court judge in Hawaii had just placed another stay on his ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries, dealing his order a second legal setback in two months. As a country music duo crooned in an auditorium still filling with adoring supporters of Mr. Trump, the president fumed backstage and huddled with his staff for a hasty redrafting of the speech.

When Mr. Trump emerged, he decided to relegate the health care overhaul, which he has identified as a top domestic priority, to a brief mention more than halfway through the speech. He instead replaced its prime billing with an angry diatribe against the travel ban ruling and the judge who had issued it.

“I have to be nice, otherwise I’ll get criticized for speaking poorly about our courts,” he said. But he could not help himself: The president soon suggested that the court that had just ruled against him should be destroyed. “People are screaming, ‘Break up the Ninth Circuit!’ ”

Once again, Mr. Trump’s agenda was subsumed by problems of his own making, his message undercut by a seemingly endless stream of controversy he cannot seem to stop himself from feeding.

Washington Post, Inside Trump’s White House, New York moderates spark infighting and suspicion, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, March 18, 2017. Outspoken, worldly and polished, a group of Manhattan business figures-turned-presidential advisers — often aligned with President Trump’s eldest daughter and son-in-law — is scrambling the still-evolving power centers swirling around the president.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainOn the other side are aides driving much of Trump’s nationalist agenda, led by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. Led by Gary Cohn and Dina Powell — two former Goldman Sachs executives often aligned with Trump’s eldest daughter and his son-in-law — the group and its broad network of allies are the targets of suspicion, loathing and jealousy from their more ideological West Wing colleagues.

Supreme Court Nomination

New York Times, What Gorsuch Has in Common With Liberals, Akhil Reed Amar, March 18, 2017. The Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch describes himself as a constitutional “originalist.” But originalism, which we are likely to hear a lot about during his confirmation hearings this week, comes in several flavors and is more complicated than the conversation about Judge Gorsuch or the Supreme Court would suggest.

Originalists believe that faithful constitutional interpreters must build on the solid bedrock of the Constitution’s text, as that text was originally understood when drafted and ratified. For example, what did the Article III words “judicial power” mean in 1787-88? What did ratifiers of the 14th Amendment in 1866-68 understand themselves as doing when declaring that states must honor the basic “privileges” and “immunities” of American citizens?

Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat Judge Gorsuch seeks to fill, described himself as an originalist and championed originalism on the court. Justice Clarence Thomas is also a professed originalist, as was President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

Inside Washington

Washington Post Opinion, So far, Trump has been mercifully incompetent, Dana Milbank, March 18, 2017. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump remarked often on the stupidity of our leaders. He was under the impression that the rest of the planet was indulging in some sort of global guffaw at our expense. “How stupid are we? The world is laughing.” If so, what must the mirthful world think of our current state of affairs? This past week alone....

Washington Post, Why does WikiLeaks keep publishing U.S. state secrets? Private contractors, Tim Shorrock, March 16, 2017. When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”

Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.

But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.

Law Enforcement

Washington Post, Seizure-inducing tweet leads to a new kind of prosecution, Max Ehrenfreund and Antonio Olivo, March 18, 2017. A Maryland man is charged with intentionally inducing a seizure by sending a message to a Newsweek journalist. Experts said it’s a new era for such types of alleged crimes.

Trump Foreign Policy

Washington Post, People will simply starve to death’: Why Trump’s plan to slash U.N. funding could lead to global calamity, Amy B Wang, March 18, 2017. The world is facing its “largest humanitarian crisis” since 1945, according to the United Nations.

Around the Nation

Washington Post, Chuck Berry, wild man of rock who helped define its rebellious spirit, dies at 90, Terence McArdle, March 18, 2017. Chuck Berry, the perpetual wild man of rock music who helped define its rebellious spirit in the 1950s and was the sly poet laureate of songs about girls, cars, school and even the “any old way you choose it” vitality of the music itself, died March 18 at at his home in St. Charles County, Mo. He was 90.

St. Charles County police announced the death in a Facebook post on its Website, saying officers responded to a medical emergency at Mr. Berry’s home and administered lifesaving techniques but could not revive him. No further information was available. “While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together,” reads Mr. Berry’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

A seminal figure in early rock music, he was all the rarer still for writing, singing and playing his own music. His songs and the boisterous performance standards he set directly influenced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and later Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger.

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him No. 6 on its list of the greatest guitarists of all time. Mr. Berry so embodied the American rock tradition that his recording of “Johnny B. Goode” was included on a disc launched into space on the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977. Besides Mr. Berry, members of the rock hall of fame’s inaugural class included Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino and the Everly Brothers. Of those he survived, Mr. Berry remained the most indefatigable and acclaimed performer, playing concerts all over the world well into his 80s.

Orlando Sentinel, Feds: Winter Park man cites KKK, Nazis in threat against congressman, Christal Hayes, A Winter Park man was charged Friday with threatening to hunt down a congressman and hang him from a lamppost, according to federal court documents. Charles Zachary Howard is accused of calling a congressman’s office in Washington D.C., last week and leaving a voicemail rife with profanities and threats, a complaint alleges.

“...We’re going to hunt your a-- down, wrap a rope around your neck and hang you from a lamppost,” part of the voicemail said. The congressman’s name was not released in court documents. In the voicemail, Howard also mentioned the KKK, the Freemasons and Nazis and suggested the congressman should prepare for the “battle” and the “apocalypse,” prosecutors said.

JFK Assassination Research

JFKFacts, Judge Tunheim: I saw Oswald’s KGB file and it was five feet tall, Jefferson Morley, March 18, 2017. The Soviet intelligence service has a massive file on accused Lee Harvey Oswald Cuba Passport applicationpresidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (shown in a passport photo) that has never been public, said federal judge John Tunheim, former chairman of a government declassification panel. Tunheim said he reviewed the file in Moscow in 1994 on behalf of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), which declassified millions of pages of JFK documents in the 1990s. “The KGB file stood five feet tall when you stacked all the boxes up,” Tunheim told a Washington press conference on Thursday.

John Tunheim, Chief U.S. District Judge for MinnesotaTunheim (shown in an official photo) said he was allowed to look at the records, which were in Russian. He was told that they related to the Soviet security services’ daily surveillance of Oswald, a former Marine who lived in the Soviet Union from October 1959 to May 1962.

“We came very close to getting it released,” Tunheim said. “But I didn’t get any help from the State Department, and, in the end, the KGB chose not to let it go.” Tunheim was the keynote speaker at a conference organized by Citizens Against Political Assassinations.

JFK conspiracy theories involving the KGB have never been substantiated and are considered by historians to be among the less plausible scenarios behind the murder of the liberal president in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Global News

SouthFront, Turkey Imposes Duties on Grain Imports from Russia, Staff report, March 18, 2017. Russia has been deprived of the right to duty-free supply of Flag of Turkeygrain in Turkey. Turkey has deprived Russia of the right to duty-free supply of wheat, corn and sunflower’s oilseed meal from March 15. According to experts, this will have a negative impact on Russian exports, as Turkey is the second buyer of Russian grain after Egypt.

According to the new conditions, Russia will be forced to pay import duty equal to 130 percent, supplying wheat. Experts connect the reasons with the ban on import of Turkish tomatoes and other vegetables to Russia.

March 17

Politico, Sen. Murray signals interest in Acosta's role in billionaire's sex plea deal, Josh Gerstein, March 17, 2017. A key Democratic senator is exploring Labor Secretary nominee Alex Acosta's role in what critics have described as a "sweetheart plea deal" given to a billionaire sex offender while Acosta was the top federal prosecutor in south Florida.

Patty MurrayThe top Democrat on the Senate HELP committee, Patty Murray of Washington (shown in an official photo), sent a letter to the Justice Department Thursday asking for records on a variety of topics, many of them relating to Acosta's service as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under President George W. Bush.

Labor Department logoHowever, the last of Murray's requests seeks: "All documents and communications authored by or referencing Mr. Acosta related to the investigation of Jeffrey Epstein." Epstein, a wealthy financier, came under investigation by state and federal authorities over allegations that he had members of his personal staff solicit teenage girls at a local high school to come to his home to engage in sexual activities for money.

As the U.S. attorney in Miami, Acosta agreed not to file any federal charges against Epstein, a wealth financier, if he pleaded guilty to state charges involving soliciting prostitution and soliciting a minor for prostitution. Soon after the deal was cut in 2008, two women filed suit claiming that the decision to forgo federal prosecution violated a federal law - the Crime Victims Rights Act - because they and other teenagers Epstein paid for sex were never adequately consulted about the plea deal or given an opportunity to object to it. The suit remains pending nearly a decade later.

While Acosta's involvement in the Epstein saga drew media attention as soon as his nomination was announced, senators have been relatively quiet about the issue before Murray raised it in her request to the Justice Department this week.

Miami Prosecutor Finds No Wrongdoing When Jailers Scalded Mentally Ill Prisoner To Death

Miami Herald, Prosecutors find no wrongdoing in shower death at Dade Correctional mental health unit, Julie K. Brown, March 17, 2017. The corrections officers who locked a schizophrenic inmate into a rigged shower — one that at least five inmates said was cranked up to scalding temperatures — committed no crime, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle announced Friday.

The state attorney’s two-year investigation into the June 23, 2012, death of Darren Rainey at Dade Correctional Institution concluded that the officers — Sgt. John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — did not act with premeditation, malice, recklessness, ill-will, hatred or evil intent when they locked Rainey into the shower.

They also said that there was no evidence that the shower was scalding, even though it appears clear that the police detectives who arrived at the scene immediately after the incident didn’t take the water temperature.

White House Picks Fight With Brits

New York Times, White House Tries to Soothe Britain, Angry Over Spy Claim, Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger, March 17, 2017. The White House scrambled to deal with an unusual rupture after suggesting that President Barack Obama used a British spy agency to conduct surveillance on Donald J. Trump last year. The agency denied the contention as “nonsense” in a rare statement. By Friday, the flap had turned into a full-blown international incident as British politicians expressed outrage.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday that “we’ve received assurances from the White House that these allegations would not be repeated.”

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, contacted Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to Washington, on Thursday night to try to deal with the unusual rupture between the United States and its closest international ally. The White House did not immediately comment on Friday morning.

The flap started when Mr. Spicer, in the course of defending Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation that Mr. Obama ordered the future president’s phones tapped last year, read from the White House lectern comments by a Fox News commentator asserting that the British spy agency was involved. Andrew Napolitano, the commentator, said on air that Mr. Obama used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the signals agency known as the GCHQ, to spy on Mr. Trump.

Washington Post, Trump says he has ‘strong support’ for NATO, but said member nations ‘must pay what they owe,’ Abby Phillip and David Nakamura​, March 17, 2017. At a joint Department of Defense Sealnews conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president said some NATO countries owe “vast sums” in dues, which is “very unfair to the United States.” President Trump on Friday said he has “strong support” for NATO, but he emphasized during a White House summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that member nations “must pay what they owe” to support the alliance.

At a joint news conference, Trump said some NATO countries owe “vast sums” in dues, which is “very unfair to the United States.” “These nations must pay what they owe,” Trump said, with Merkel standing next to him in the East Room.

Yet Trump appeared to misstate how NATO financing works, arguing each nation agreed to contribute 2 percent of gross domestic product. In fact, the organization long ago set a goal that each member would devote at least 2 percent of GDP to defense in their own budgets. They “contribute” their capabilities to NATO, not monetary assessments. Those who haven’t reached 2 percent, which is the majority of nations, don’t “owe” or have to make up shortfalls of the past.

New York Times Opinion, Let Bannon Be Bannon! David Brooks, March 17, 2017. Steve Bannon, the Prince of Darkness, outside the White House in February. President Trump has abandoned Steve Bannon’s governing philosophy, and with it, the benefits the working class counted.

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Kellyanne Conway’s spouse headed for senior Justice Department post, Devlin Barrett, March 17, 2017. The husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway is poised to be nominated to lead the Justice Department’s civil division, a powerful post overseeing the federal government’s lawsuits on a wide variety of issues, including defending President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

White House officials plan in coming days to announce the nomination of George Conway, a New York lawyer, according to people familiar with the matter. Conway has worked for decades at the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in securities litigation and other corporate legal issues. His name had repeatedly surfaced as being under consideration for a number of jobs at the Justice Department, including solicitor general, who oversees the government’s cases before the Supreme Court. His expected nomination to lead the civil division was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Kellyanne Conway is one of Trump’s most high-profile aides, appearing frequently on television to promote and defend White House policies. The Justice Department’s civil division is an important but mostly behind-the-scenes part of the government. Its lawyers are responsible for defending federal policies and agencies in court, and for pursuing alleged wrongdoing by corporations.

During the Obama administration, the civil division racked up tens of billions of dollars’ worth of financial penalties against major corporations. Some of those settlements resolved probes of international banks for their handling of residential mortgage-backed securities that contributed to the financial collapse of 2008. Other settlements stemmed from investigations into whether pharmaceutical companies sold billions of dollars of prescription drugs under false pretenses.

Threat To Trump Seen

 

President Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)
President Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

InfoWars, JFK Researchers: Trump at Risk For Assassination, Jerome Corsi, March 17, 2017. Power structure against JFK still exists, warns researchers. President Trump is at more risk of assassination from the Deep State than any president since President John Kennedy. That was the consensus warning issued by a meeting of top JFK assassination researchers held at the National Press Club on Thursday.

“I’m really worried, whether you like Donald Trump or not – I’m concerned about where this is going,” Lawrence Schnapf, a New York attorney and co-chair [sic. Schnapf is a member of the board, not co-chair] of the Citizens Against Political Assassination (CAPA), the group sponsoring the press conference and seminar. “The Deep State that conspired to assassinate JFK is still in place today,” Schnapf stressed. “CAPA is going to do everything we can to get the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to make public all the JFK assassination records, even if we have to take legal action.”

“But Donald Trump must understand the threat to his life from enemies within the Deep State is real.”

CAPA sponsored the meeting to urge President Trump to sign an executive order demanding the National Archives make public all remaining JFK assassination documents that are currently scheduled for release on Oct. 26, in final compliance with the JFK Records Act of 1992 as implemented by the Assassinations Record Review Board (AARB).

On Oct. 26, NARA is expected to release some 3,600 documents still held secret, nearly 54 years since JFK was assassinated in Dallas, TX, on Nov. 22, 1963. In addition, NARA possesses approximately 40,000 that remain heavily-redacted – documents that CAPA is urging President Trump to insist also must be released on Oct. 26, without redactions, to allow the American public to read these documents in complete form, as they were originally written.

An index of the 3,600 still secret documents released by NARA suggests the documents still kept secret by the CIA largely involve the deep and complicated ties the CIA had to Lee Harvey Oswald, the “lone-gun assassin” identified by the Warren Commission.

“We may never know how many documents the CIA destroyed or if the 3,600 documents NARA is planning to release are all secret JFK assassination documents that may exist deep buried within the CIA,” explained Andrew Kreig, J.D., a Justice Integrity Project editor and CAPA member who organized the conference.

“If President Trump would lend his authority to the release of all JFK documents in a not-redacted fashion, the American public would finally get a chance to see how the Warren Commission lied and covered up the extent to which we now understand Lee Harvey Oswald worked as a field operative, for the Deep State that continues today to menace President Trump.”

Famed forensic pathologist and medical school professor Cyril H. Wecht, J.D., M.D., chaired the conference and gave a graphic demonstration why he considered the Warren Commission’s “single bullet theory” nonsense, demonstrating his points by arranging two members of the audience to adjust their chairs to sit as President Kennedy and Governor John Connelly sat in the presidential limousine that fatal day in Dallas.

Also attending was noted JFK expert James H. Lesar, J.D., the president of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) headquarted in Washington, D.C. “What after more than 50 years can be so important to national security that the federal government would want to keep secret from the American public about the assassination of our president on Nov. 22, 1963,” Lesar asked.

He expressed his continuing concern that one provision of the JFK Records Act gives federal agencies the right to request continued postponement of JFK records after 2017, if release would result in “identifiable harm” that outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

JIP Editor's Note: Few speakers even mentioned or otherwise hinted at any threat to President Trump, and two focused entirely on Freedom of Information issues in general with not reference to Kennedy. Also, Schnapf identified himself as a Republican and sympathizer of the current administation.

Global News

North Korean flag

Washington Post, Tillerson says ‘all options are on the table’ when it comes to North Korea, Anna Fifield, March 17, 2017. The Trump administration gave its clearest signal yet that Rex Tillerson Exxon Mobile (Small)it would consider taking military action against North Korea (whose flag is shown above), as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (shown in a file photo)  said Friday that “all options are on the table” to deter the threat from Pyongyang. Tensions are running high in Northeast Asia, with North Korea making observable progress toward its goal of building a missile that could reach the U.S. mainland and China incensed over South Korea’s decision to deploy an American antimissile battery.

Tillerson’s remarks, ruling out diplomatic talks and leaving the door open to military action, will fuel fears in the region that the Trump administration is seriously considering what Washington euphemistically calls “kinetic” options.

“Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Tillerson said at a news conference in Seoul with Yun Byung-se, the South Korean foreign minister. He was referring to the Obama administration policy of trying to wait North Korea out, hoping that sanctions would prove so crippling that Pyongyang would have no choice but to return to denuclearization negotiations.

SouthFront, ISIS Defenses Collapsing Across Syria, Voiceover by Harold Hoover, March 17, 2017 (video 2:19 min.). In the province of Aleppo, the Syrian army’s Tiger Forces liberated the villages of Tal Ahmar, Asimiyah, Qarin, Hazazah, Tal Ayyub, Um Zulaylah and Rasm al-Harmel. Government troops also attacked ISIS units at Ahmadiyah and Zubaydah.

Syria FlagGovernment forces took control of the Al-Mazar Mountaion, the nearby military depots, the Palmyra gas field. Government troops destroyed an ISIS vehicle at the al-Talila crossroad and some 4 ISIS members at the town of Arak.

Washington Post, Mounting claims of civilian deaths after U.S. targets al-Qaeda in Syria, Louisa Loveluck and Thomas Gibbons-Neff​​, March 17, 2017. The United States said that it had carried out an airstrike killing several al-Qaeda militants in Syria, but later reports from activists said that the attack had hit a mosque, killing dozens of civilians.

March 16

Trump Budget

Washington Post, Congressional Republicans sharply criticize Trump budget, Kelsey Snell and Karoun Demirjian, March 16, 2017. Defense hawks, rural conservatives and even some Donald Trump Logo Make America Great Againof Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress pushed back on the huge potential hike in defense spending as insufficient and decrying some other cuts to federal agencies and programs. Several of his closest allies have said the plan has virtually no chance in Congress.

New York Times Opinion, Mr. Trump’s Tear-Down Budget, Editorial Board, March 16, 2017. The White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, defended the president’s budget proposal for 2018 by saying it puts numbers on Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. That it does, but in so doing, it shows that many of those promises simply cannot be kept. As he pledged, Mr. Trump would spend heavily on the military and border security — but only, as it turns out, by spending far less in areas like education and infrastructure that he had once deemed important.

This is, of course, very much a political document, full of bluster and preposterous cuts that Mr. Trump must know that Congress, including many Republicans, will not accept. But the spirit behind the “budget blueprint” is clear enough: With a few big exceptions, Mr. Trump is in full tear-down mode.

Trump Spying Claims Against Obama

New York Times, Trump Digs In on Wiretap, No Matter Who Says Differently, Peter Baker and Charlies Savage, March 16, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Mr. Trump accused President Barack Obama of tapping his phones, the controversy has eclipsed White House attempts to pass a health law and write a budget.

Trump Attacks On Civil Service

Washington Post, White House endorses plan to remove 30,000 FAA workers from federal payroll, Ashley Halsey III, March 16, 2017. President Trump’s support for a plan to lop more than 30,000 Federal Aviation Administration workers from the federal payroll gives fresh momentum to an effort that stalled in Congress last year. The proposal is included in Trump’s 2018 budget, which would cut funding for the Transportation Department by 13 percent. The move would address two themes at the core of White House strategy: contracting the size of the federal workforce and putting a costly federal program in private hands.

Nazi Claim Made Against Trump Advisor

Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s top adviser Sebastian Gorka is sworn member of Nazi group, could be deported, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2017. A notorious Nazi group in Hungary is acknowledging that one of Donald Trump’s top White House aides, counter-terrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka, is one of its sworn members. The revelation that Gorka is officially a Nazi, first exposed today by the news publication Forward, is sending shockwaves through the political world. And because the group in question is on a banned list for immigrants, Gorka now faces the possibility of not only losing his job, but of being deported.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Sebastian Gorka found his way to the White House through his associate Steve Bannon, as the two previously worked closely together at white nationalist propaganda site Breitbart. Although detractors have often accused Bannon and his Breitbart ilk of metaphorically being Nazis, this is the first instance of one being exposed as literally a Nazi. The Hungarian group, Vitézi Rend, has been around in various incarnations since World War II. The State Department classified the group as being “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany,” and to this day, any official member of the group is disallowed from immigrating into the United States.

Around the Nation: Blues Legend Dies

New York Times, James Cotton, Blues Harmonica Legend, Dies at 81, Bill Friskics-Warren, March 16, 2017. James Cotton, a pioneering harmonica player who worked with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and helped establish his instrument as an integral part of modern blues, died on Thursday in Austin, Tex. He was 81.

Marc Lipkin, the director of publicity at Alligator Records, Mr. Cotton’s label, said the cause was pneumonia. Many of Mr. Cotton’s lasting early contributions came during his first tenure with Waters, in Chicago, where from 1954 to 1966 he played in a band that included the guitarist Jimmy Rogers and the pianist Otis Spann.

Often heard in close call and response with Waters’s deep, declamatory vocals, Mr. Cotton’s squalling harmonica animated dozens of recordings Waters made for the influential Chess label, including classics like “Got My Mojo Working” and “Rock Me.”

Mr. Cotton embarked on a solo career in 1966 when he formed the James Cotton Blues Band. He and his group spent much of the next decade making records of their own and sharing bills with popular rock acts like Janis Joplin and Cream. Mr. Cotton’s muscular, heavily amplified harmonica — he typically played with a microphone cupped tightly to his instrument — influenced the work of several major blues-rock groups of the era, among them the Allman Brothers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Electric Flag.

March 15

Trump Pentagon Seeks Expanded War In Syria, With No Constitutionally Required Congressional Approval

Washington Post, U.S. to likely send as many as 1,000 more ground troops to Syria, officials say, Thomas Gibbons-Neff​​, March 14, 2017. The new contingent, which would expand Donald Trump Logo Make America Great Againthe American presence ahead of the offensive in Raqqa, would not initially play a combat role, but instead would be advising Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground. The plan would mark a continued departure from the Obama administration, which resisted committing more ground troops to Syria. The moves would also mark a departure from the Obama administration, which resisted committing more ground troops to Syria.

The implementation of the proposed plan, however, relies on a number of variables that have yet to be determined, including how much to arm Kurdish and Arab troops on the ground, or what part regional actors, such as Turkey, might have in the Raqqa campaign. The new troops, if sent, would be focused on supporting Kurdish and Arab fighters in northern Syria battling the Islamic State. Under the plan, the added American forces would act primarily as advisers, offering expertise on bomb disposal and coordinating air support for the coalition of Kurds and Arabs, also known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

There are already in Syria about 500 U.S. Special Operations forces operating alongside the SDF, in addition to about 250 Rangers and 200 Marines. The new U.S. troops, if approved, would probably come from parts of both the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — a flotilla of ships loaded with 2,200 Marines that is now steaming toward the region — and the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, of which 2,500 recently arrived in Kuwait. These conventional troops would supplement the Special Operations forces already on the ground and operate much like their counterparts fighting in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

“This would still be by, with and through our local partners on the ground,” said one defense official on the potential surge, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that had not yet been made public.

The new Syria deployments are also set to occur in tandem with a likely White House decision that would officially abolish the troops caps that were put in place for U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by the Obama administration. The number of troops in Iraq and Syria were officially capped by the previous administration to about 5,000 and 500, respectively. Military commanders have said in the past that the caps have split up units for the sake of keeping troop numbers low.

Washington Post, Federal judge in Hawaii freezes President Trump’s new executive order, Maria Sacchetti, Kalani Takase and Matt Zapotosky, March 15, 2017. A federal judge in Hawaii has frozen President Trump’s new executive order temporarily barring the issuance of new visas to citizens of six-Muslim majority countries and suspending the admission of new refugees.

U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson froze the order nationwide. Watson was the second of three judges to hear arguments Wednesday on whether to freeze the ban. A federal judge in Maryland said he also could rule before day’s end after a morning hearing, and the same federal judge in Washington state who suspended Trump’s first travel ban was set to hear arguments starting at 5 p.m. Eastern.

The hearing in Hawaii came in response to a lawsuit filed by the state itself. Lawyers for Hawaii alleged the new travel ban, much like the old, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it is essentially a Muslim ban, hurts the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent and damages the state’s robust tourism industry.

Washington Post, U.S. indicts Russian spies in breach of 500 million Yahoo accounts, Ellen Nakashima, March 15, 2017. The Justice Department announced the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers for the 2014 heist. The indictments mark the first criminal cyber charges ever brought against Russian government officials and are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.

Media

John Roberts of Fox News asks a question at White House press briefing. Photo credit: The White House / YouTube

WhoWhatWhy, Trump’s War on Media: Real or “Fake”? Celia Wexler, March 15, 2017. Journalists shed light on new challenges they face, but offer few solutions. Does White House abuse of the press reflect a lack of discipline — or something more sinister?  To listen to the reporters who cover the White House, February 24 remains a day of infamy. For them, it seemed to mark a tipping point in their struggles with President Donald Trump, who has declared the media “the enemy.”

That was the day that press secretary Sean Spicer decided to replace a scheduled press briefing with a more informal event in a smaller venue, and to exclude certain reporters, among them those representing The New York Times,the Los Angeles Times, CNN, the BBC, the Guardian, Politico, Buzzfeed, and others.The journalists did not take this decision well.“We were all stunned by it,” said New York Times Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller. 

“I knew it was a big story.” She rushed to get a story up online. “It got huge readership,” she said.Bumiller’s reactions were echoed by other members of the White House press corps who spoke on March 7 at a conference co-sponsored by the National Press Club and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

March 14

Trump Health Care Battles

Washington Post, White House tries to salvage GOP health-care proposal as criticism mounts, Kelsey Snell, Elise Viebeck, Amy Goldstein and Mike DeBonis, March 14, 2017. Vice Mike PencePresident Mike Pence (shown in a photo) and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to try to salvage the Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, whose chances of passing the House appear increasingly slim.

Washington Post, The CBO report demolishes the GOP’s edifice of deception, Greg Sargent, March 14, 2017. On Tuesday morning, the White House kept up its attacks on the John McCainCongressional Budget Office, which has found, devastatingly, that the GOP health-care plan supported by President Trump would result in 24 million fewer people with health coverage. As budget director Mick Mulvaney put it on Fox News: “Welcome to Washington, where the CBO says it’s sunny and 75 degrees.”

At the same time, however, the response from certain GOP senators has been far more cautious. Some are saying that they have not read the CBO report and want to reserve judgment. Others are expressing serious worry about the GOP bill’s impact on their states. Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy said that the report’s projection of massive coverage loss is “awful.” Arizona’s John McCain (shown in an official photo) added: “I’m very worried about what the House bill would do to Arizona.”

Vox, The GOP health plan is an act of class warfare by the rich against the poor, Matt Dylan, March 13, 2017. The plan, the CBO concludes, would take more President Donald Trump officialthan $1 trillion away from programs targeting poor and middle-class families, to fund an $883 billion tax cut targeted at the wealthy. It is upward income redistribution of a truly massive scale.

“No legislation enacted in recent decades cut low-income programs this much — or even comes close,” Robert Greenstein, the founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Washington’s leading advocate for poor and low-income Americans, says.

Washington Post, White House budget director’s false claims about the Obamacare legislative process, Glenn Kessler, March 14, 2017.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great Again“It’s there. Anybody can read it. Folks watching on television now can go online and read what the bill is. They can watch the committee hearings. Those are things that were dramatically missing in Obamacare.”

— White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” March 12, 2017

Legislative sausage-making, particularly on big bills, is often complex and confusing. In theory, the bills are drafted in committees, but the reality is that hard work is often done behind the scenes, where lawmakers haggle over details and cut deals. Sometimes secrecy is essential, because if some details become public too soon, opponents have more time to build opposition.

The House Republican replacement bill, for instance, for a period was kept under lock and key, available only to members, until it was ready for debate at two key committees.

Nevertheless, we were rather surprised to see White House budget director Mulvaney assert on national television that the Affordable Care Act, by contrast, was drafted with no committee hearings and that no ordinary American could read the bill before it was passed.  Is that really the case?

Trump Listed As Witness In Friend Epstein's Pedophile Civil SuitTrial

Florida Bulldog, President Trump on witness list in Palm Beach lawsuit involving billionaire pedophile, Dan Christensen, March 14, 2017. President Donald Trump is on a list of witnesses for trial in a Palm Beach lawsuit that pits billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein against a Fort Lauderdale attorney who represents Epstein’s victims. The case appears bound for trial this summer following a Feb. 9 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court in another case that has allowed Fort Lauderdale lawyer Bradley Edwards’ claim of malicious prosecution against Epstein to proceed.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump “has been identified as an individual who may have information relating to these allegations,” said Edwards’ West Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola, who placed Trump’s name on a witness list on Aug. 31. “But it’s unlikely that he would ever be called” to appear at trial, especially now that he’s assumed the presidency. Scarola said Trump is one of a number of high-profile individuals whose testimony might be relevant because they “had a relationship with Epstein that would have at least exposed them potentially to what was going on inside Epstein’s Palm Beach home … during the relevant period of time” between 2001-2007.

What was going on in Epstein’s mansion, court papers say, was an ugly child molestation scheme involving sex with “substantially more” than 40 girls, some as young as 12. A “statement of undisputed facts” filed by Scarola says Epstein used his staff and his victims to recruit more victims, employing “a pyramid abuse scheme in which he paid underage victims $200-$300 cash for each other underage victim that she brought to him.”

“There is no evidence the President was involved in Epstein’s schemes,” Scarola said.

Still, the spectacle of a U.S. president being drawn into sordid litigation involving a notorious politically connected sexual criminal who got an apparent sweetheart deal from then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, now Trump’s nominee to become U.S. Secretary of Labor, represents a potential political nightmare for the White House. The White House press office did not respond to requests for comment. Epstein’s attorney, Tonja Haddad Coleman, declined to comment.

A little-noticed affidavit by Edwards recounting his knowledge of Trump’s involvement with Epstein is recounted further below in this story.

More Charges In Navy Contracting/Sex Scandal

Washington Post, Eight current and ex-Navy officials, including admiral, charged in escalating ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery scandal, Craig Whitlock​, March 14, 2017. ​The defendants are accused of taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays courtesy of Leonard Glenn Francis, a Singapore-based defense contractor who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.

Trump Transition

President Trump (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)

President Trump (Gage Skidmore file photo via Flickr)

Washington Post, Defense Secretary Mattis withdraws choice for undersecretary for policy, Karen DeYoung, March 14, 2017. The decision was made after the White House indicated it was unwilling to fight what it said would be a battle for Senate confirmation of Anne W. Patterson, who was President Barack Obama's ambassador to Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood uprising.

U.S. officials said that two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), were strongly opposed to Patterson’s nomination because she served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, a time when the Obama administration supported an elected government with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that was ultimately overthrown by the Egyptian military.

Although Obama administration holdovers remain in a few jobs, after eight weeks in office, President Trump has not nominated a single high official under Cabinet rank in the Defense or State departments.

Washington Post, Trump paid $38 million in taxes in 2005, White House says, Philip Rucker and Drew Harwell​, March 14, 2017. The future president also reported a $105 million write-down, according to a tax document released on MSNBC. The Post could not independently verify the return, but a White House statement indicated that it is authentic, and said Trump paid “no more tax than legally required.”  

New York Times, Trump’s Court Pick Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire, Charlie Savage and Julie Turkewitz, March 14, 2017. Neil M. Gorsuch represented the mogul Philip F. Anschutz as an outside counsel and has links to other executives at his companies. The publicity-shy billionaire Philip F. Anschutz inherited an oil and gas firm and built it into an empire that has sprawled into telecommunications, railroads, real estate, resorts, sports teams, stadiums, movies and conservative publications like The Weekly Standard and The Washington Examiner.

Neil GorsuchMr. Anschutz’s influence is especially felt in his home state of Colorado, where years ago Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a Denver native, the son of a well-known Colorado Republican and now President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was drawn into his orbit.

As a lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Judge Gorsuch (shown in an official photo) represented Mr. Anschutz, his companies and lower-ranking business executives as an outside counsel. In 2006, Mr. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to nominate Judge Gorsuch to the federal appeals court. And since joining the court, Judge Gorsuch has been a semiregular speaker at the mogul’s annual dove-hunting retreats for the wealthy and politically prominent at his 60-square-mile Eagles Nest Ranch.

“They say a country’s prosperity depends on three things: sound money, private property and the rule of law,” Judge Gorsuch said at the 2010 retreat, according to his speaker notes from that year. “This crowd hardly needs to hear from me about the first two of the problems we face on those scores.”

With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to take up Judge Gorsuch’s nomination next week, Democrats have based much of their criticism of him on the argument that his judicial and economic philosophy unduly favors corporations and the wealthy. But his relationship with Mr. Anschutz, 77, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be $12.6 billion, has received scant attention.

March 13

Forecast On GOP Health Care Plan's Impact

Tom Price Georgia Congressman and HHS SecretaryTrump Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price

New York Times, 24 Million Will Lose Insurance, Analysis of G.O.P. Bill Says, Thomas Kaplan, March 13, 2017. A review by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said 24 million people would lose coverage within a decade under the Republican health plan intended to replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill would save the government $337 billion over 10 years, which could ease pressure on the legislation from the right.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainRepublicans had been bracing for what was almost certain to be a bleak accounting of the legislation’s projected effects. The American Health Care Act, as Republicans call their bill, was already facing widespread criticism from providers of health care, some conservatives, and a united Democratic Party. The numbers released Monday will only make it more difficult for Republicans to explain why their legislation would bring positive change to the country’s health care system.

In recent days, Democrats had criticized Republicans for pushing the health care bill through two House committees last week before the Congressional Budget Office had weighed in, saying it was irresponsible to begin considering legislation without a firm grip on its potential costs and ramifications.

Washington Post, GOP strategy on health-care bill contrasts sharply with Democrats approach to Obamacare, Carolyn Y. Johnson​, March 13, 2017. Democrats used a big tent approach, convening health-care groups that did not normally talk to each other while cutting deals and strong-arming key industry players to build broad support for Obamacare. In contrast, the Republican effort to repeal the law has unfolded so fast that lobbyists and industry groups barely had time to digest the bill before lawmakers began marking it up.

Fox News Sex Scandals A Factor In NYC U.S. Attorney Firing?

Fox News ChannelNew York Times, As Fox News Faces Inquiry, Trump Gets to Name Prosecutor, Jim Dwyer and William K. Rashbaum, March 13, 2017. A federal grand jury is expected to soon hear Roger Ailestestimony linked to harassment claims at Fox News. But the dismissal of Preet Bharara may complicate the inquiry. The political drama around the federal courthouse in Manhattan did not end with the sudden, unexplained turnabout of President Trump in firing Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

While that prominent post always gets attention, one candidate frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Bharara (shown in an official photo) could sharpen the scrutiny to new levels: Marc L. Mukasey, a former prosecutor who now works in white-collar criminal defense.

Preet BhararaAs it happens, Mr. Mukasey has represented Roger E. Ailes (shown at right in a file photo), the former chairman of Fox News, who has long had a mogul-to-mogul relationship with Mr. Trump. Whomever Mr. Trump nominates to replace Mr. Bharara will inherit an investigation of Fox News.

A federal grand jury sitting in Manhattan is expected to soon hear testimony from at least two witnesses about business practices at Fox News when it was led by Mr. Ailes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Ailes, who was forced out in July amid revelations of multiple accusations of sexual harassment, has denied those charges.

The current inquiry, which began in September and appears to be in an early stage, may be focused, at least in part, on settlement payments, a person with knowledge of the matter said. One of those subpoenaed, according to the two people, is Mark Kranz, the former chief financial officer for Fox News who oversaw the network’s finances when it paid millions of dollars in settlements. Mr. Kranz was appointed to his position by Mr. Ailes in 2004, and resigned last year, a week after Mr. Ailes had done so.

Andrea Tantaros Fox PhotoMr. Ailes helped prepare Mr. Trump ahead of debates in last year’s campaign.

In 2014, Mr. Trump intervened in a dispute between Mr. Ailes and a former aide who said he had damaging information about Mr. Ailes and the network. Mr. Trump negotiated a settlement on behalf of Mr. Ailes, and later boasted of his work, telling the journalist Gabriel Sherman, “When Roger was having problems, he didn’t call 97 people, he called me.”

The existence of the grand jury investigation of Fox News was disclosed in a state court proceeding last month by Judd Burstein, a Manhattan lawyer representing a former daytime host for Fox, Andrea Tantaros (shown in a Fox promotional photo), who said her career suffered after spurning advances from Mr. Ailes. She charged that the network operated like a “sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult.”

In an email, Mr. Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor who is a partner in Greenberg Traurig, said he would have no comment. Mr. Mukasey’s firm has handled real estate development matters for the family of Jared Kushner, who is married to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Among his partners is Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and vigorous advocate for Mr. Trump during the campaign.

Mr. Mukasey is the son of Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge and former attorney general under President George W. Bush, and longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani’s. Asked last month about the possibility of stepping into the United States attorney’s office, Mr. Mukasey told the New York Law Journal that he loved his job, but, “If asked to serve my country, that is something I take very seriously.”

Around the Nation

CNN, Texas bill would fine men $100 each time they masturbate, Isabelle Chapman, March 13, 2017. A Texas lawmaker has proposed a bill that would fine a man $100 each time he masturbates. The bill also imposes a 24-hour waiting period if a guy wants a colonoscopy or a vasectomy, or if he's in the market for some Viagra.

Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat, knows her bill isn't going to get very far. But she proposed it last week to make a point and give male lawmakers a taste of their own medicine. Farrar has long been an advocate of women's health in a state that has made it extremely difficult for women to get abortions. And the bill, by pointing out a sexist double standard, is meant to shine a light on the obstacles women deal with when it comes to their health care.

"Let's look at what Texas has done to women," Farrar told CNN. "What if men had to undergo the same intrusive procedures?" Even the name is a jabFarrar's bill would penalize men for masturbation because such behavior is a failure to preserve the sanctity of life and "an act against an unborn child."

Even the bill's name -- "A Man's Right to Know Act" -- is a jab at a pamphlet Texas doctors are required to give women seeking abortions.Lawsuit challenges Texas rule requiring burial for aborted fetusesLawsuit challenges Texas rule requiring burial for aborted fetuses.

That pamphlet, "A Woman's Right to Know," has long been criticized for being inaccurate, ideologically influenced by religion and designed to discourage women from getting abortions.One section of the pamphlet says breast cancer and abortions are linked. Scientific studies have found no cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

"We have real lives to deal with," said Farrar, who pointed out that Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.And she's right — the rate of women who died from pregnancy-related complications doubled from 2010 to 2014, according to a recent study.

Trump Justice Department

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

Politico, Two more U.S. attorneys win reprieves from dismissal order, Josh Gerstein, March 13, 2017. The chief federal prosecutors in Connecticut and northern New York have won short-term reprieves from President Donald Trump's abrupt action Friday demanding immediate resignations from several dozen U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama.U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Deirdre Daly said in a statement Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed to allow her to remain in her job until later this year.

Daly served as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan and in Connecticut, and in private practice for a time, before being nominated and confirmed as U.S. attorney in 2014.

Albany-based U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian issued a similar statement, according to the Associated Press. Nominated By Obama in 2009 and confirmed in 2010, Hartunian said he was being allowed to stay through June in order to hit his 20-year mark at the Justice Department.

JFK Death & Deep State

Truth and Shadows, Beyond their wildest dreams: 9/11 and the American Left, Graeme MacQueen, March 13, 2017. Dr. Graeme MacQueen is the former Director of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University in Canada. He was an organizer of the Toronto Hearings on 9/11, is a member of the Consensus 9/11 Panel, and is a former co-editor of the Journal of 9/11 Studies.

On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Fidel Castro gave a talk on Cuban radio and television. He pulled together, as well as he could in the amount of time available to him, the evidence he had gathered from news media and other sources, and he reflected on this evidence.

The questions he posed were well chosen: they could serve as a template for those confronting complex acts of political violence. Were there contradictions and absurdities in the story being promoted in the U.S. media? Who benefitted from the assassination? Were intelligence agencies claiming to know more than they could legitimately know? Was there evidence of foreknowledge of the murder? What was the main ideological clash in powerful U.S. circles and how did Kennedy fit in? Was there a faction that had the capacity and willingness to carry out such an act? And so on.

But beneath the questions lay a central, unspoken fact: Castro was able to imagine — as a real possibility and not as mere fantasy  — that the story being promoted by the U.S. government and media was radically false. He was able to conceive of the possibility that the killing had not been carried out by a lone gunman on the left sympathetic to Cuba and the Soviet Union, but by powerful, ultra-right forces, including forces internal to the state, in the United States.

Because his conceptual framework did not exclude this hypothesis he was able to examine the evidence that favoured it. He was able to recognize the links between those wishing to overthrow the Cuban government and take more aggressive action toward the Soviet Union and those wishing to get Kennedy out of the way.

In the immediate wake of the assassination, and after the Warren Commission’s report appeared in 1964, few among the elite left leadership in the U.S. shared Castro’s imagination. Vincent Salandria, one of key researchers and dissidents, said: “I have experienced from the beginning that the left was most unreceptive to my conception of the assassination.”

Why would Castro have had less difficulty than the U.S. left leadership imagining that the assassination of Kennedy had been carried out by and for the American ultra-right and the intelligence community?

What we imagine to be true in the present will surely be influenced by what we have intimately experienced in the past. Castro’s imagination of what U.S. imperial powers might do was shaped by what he had witnessed them actually do, or attempt to do, to him and his country.

Castro referred in his November 23 talk not only to the economic warfare against Cuba, but to the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. But, of course, the CIA’s Operation Mongoose had been active in the interim between these two latter events, and he was familiar with its main lines. Perhaps he was not familiar with all its components.

As far as I am aware, he did not know on November 23, 1963 of the 1962 Operation Northwoods plan, endorsed by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to create a pretext for an invasion of Cuba through a multi-faceted false flag operation that included terrorist attacks in Miami and Washington, to be falsely blamed on Cuba. Had he been familiar with this scheme he might have cited it on November 23 to bolster his case.

JFKcountercoup, John Newman's Countdown to Darkness - Volume II in a Series, William Kelly, March 13, 2017. Book review of: Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of John NewmanPresident Kennedy Volume II (January, 2017). John Newman's first two installments in a series of books on the deep political and historic background to the assassination of John Kennedy are blockbusters that destroy the official myth that the president was killed by a deranged lone nut.

(Dr. John Newman, a history professor and former Army intelligence officer, is shown in a file photo. He is a speaker at the CAPA news conference at the National Press Club on March 16, 2017.)

The first volume of Where Angels Tread Lightly sets the historical backdrop to what happened at Dealey Plaza leading up to the election of JFK, while Darkness continues the chronology up to the Bay of Pigs fiasco in April 1961.

Each chapter and every statement are meticulously footnoted to government documents and personal interviews that clearly show how the accused assassin and ex-Marine defector was wittingly used in a counter-intelligence trap to catch a Soviet mole who had burrowed deep in the US government intelligence apparatus. This mole exposed the U2 spy plane and a CIA spy Vladamir Popov to the Soviets and while there are suspects -- Kim Philby, Donald McLean and Robert Lipka, he was never officially identified. 

Freedom of Information: Sunshine Week

Frontier of Freedom Foundation, Trump, the CIA, and Those Still Secret JFK Records, Jacob G. Hornberger, March 13, 2017. This Thursday, March 16, at 1 p.m., Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) is hosting a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that will feature U.S. District Judge John Tunheim and other speakers. The purpose of the conference is to draw attention to the thousands of pages of official records relating to the JFK assassination that are still being kept secret from the American people more than 50 years after the assassination.

When Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, which posits that the U.S. national-security establishment orchestrated the assassination, came out in 1991, it included a blurb at the end of it informing people that the government was still maintaining tight secrecy over its JFK-assassination related records.

There was such an enormous public outcry over the continued official secrecy, especially because it appeared to be part of an official cover-up of the assassination, that Congress enacted the JFK Records Act the following year, 1992. To ensure compliance with the law, Congress established a commission called the Assassination Records Review Board. The person chosen to serve as the chairman of the commission was a lawyer from Minnesota, John Tunheim, who became a federal judge in 1995.

March 12

John McCainWashington Post, McCain to Trump: Retract wiretap claim or provide proof,  Kelsey Snell, March 12, 2017. “I have no reason to believe that the charge is true,” said the Republican senator (shown in a photo). He and other lawmakers have pointed out that the president could directly ask intelligence officials to corroborate his claim against the Obama administration but instead has asked Congress to investigate.

Washington Post, Trump budget expected to seek historic contraction of federal workforce, Damian Paletta​, March 12, 2017. The president is expected to propose a budget this week that includes cuts in the federal government of a magnitude not seen since the end of World War II, a plan expected to prioritize military and homeland security spending while slashing budgets for a broad spectrum of other federal agencies and programs, economists and budget analysts said.

Aides say that the president sees a new Washington emerging from the budget process, one that prioritizes the military and homeland security while slashing many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research. Simply put, government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America, with private companies and states playing a much bigger role.

The cuts Trump plans to propose this week are also expected to lead to layoffs among federal workers, changes that would be felt sharply in the Washington area. According to an economic analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, the reductions outlined so far by Trump’s advisers would reduce employment in the region by 1.8 percent and personal income by 3.5 percent, and lower home prices by 1.9 percent.

There are roughly 2.8 million federal employees, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, a number roughly flat over the past 20 years but lower than any point from 1974 to 1997. And roughly 34 percent of the federal employees who are not in the military will qualify for full retirement benefits in 2020.

Washington Post, We are all conspiracy theorists, Chris Cillizza, March 12, 2017. What was once on the fringe of political dialogue is mainstream, Today’s toxic environment means conspiracy theories aren’t dismissed. Instead, they’re taken as something close to fact — and this is happening across the ideological spectrum.

Talk to a supporter of President Trump and, at some point in the conversation, you are likely to hear some version of this: “The mainstream media is fake news. They ignore all the good things Trump is doing because they hate him and wanted Hillary to win. That’s why they spend so much time on this ridiculous Russia story and not enough time investigating whether Trump Tower was actually wiretapped!”

Talk to an opponent of President Trump and, at some point in the conversation, you are likely to hear some version of this: “Russia has something on Trump. Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Paul Manafort, and the president’s own unwillingness to bad-mouth Vladimir Putin and Russia all make clear that he is being secretly controlled by a foreign power. He needs to be impeached!”

What those two views reflect is that we live in “X-Files” time now. Conspiracy theories aren’t dismissed; instead, they’re taken as something close to fact. “Prove that the conspiracy theory is wrong!” is now our default position as a society.

Conspiracy theories have always been with us — there was a second shooter in the JFK assassination, 9/11 was an inside job, and so on and so forth — but they have almost always existed on the fringes of political dialogue. Not anymore. We are all conspiracy theorists.

National Security Probe of Trump Russian Ties

Palmer Report, Did Donald Trump know Michael Flynn was paying an FBI official to smear Hillary Clinton? Bill Palmer, March 12, 2017. Amid Michael Flynn’s admission this week that he was a paid foreign agent of Turkey while he was also a Donald Trump campaign adviser, his belated filings have also exposed that he was paying the FBI official who had tried and failed to get the State Department to do something improper on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. It’s also clear Trump has known for months that Flynn was on the take. So now comes the essential question that must be determined: did Trump know at the time that Flynn was paying the FBI official to smear his opponent?

The timeline as we now know it looks like this: Back in May of 2015, Brian McCauley, who was an FBI deputy assistant director at the time, called up the State Department and offered to declassify the information allegedly contained in Hillary Clinton’s emails in exchange for favors in return; it didn’t go anywhere (source: Washington Post). McCauley then retired and became a political consultant.

Then more than a year later, just three weeks before election day, someone leaked McCauley’s earlier “quid pro quo” offer to the media in an attempt to create the false appearance that Hillary Clinton had done something wrong with her emails and that her former State Department was attempting to cover it up. But according to Michael Flynn’s own government filings this week, he began paying unspecified “consultancy” fees to McCauley shortly before the leak occurred. The four payments, which continued until shortly after Donald Trump was declared the winner of the election, totaled $28,000 – and they were subcontracted from the money which Flynn had received from Turkey.

Whether Brian McCauley had been attempting to entrap the State Department back in 2015 as part of a long range plan to harm Clinton, or whether he had merely been asking for an improper quid pro quo, here’s what is clear: Two weeks after Michael Flynn began paying off McCauley, the eighteen month old incident suddenly leaked. Did McCauley leak it to help out his new boss? Did McCauley mention it offhand to Flynn, who then leaked it? Either way, it’s fairly clear that Flynn paid McCauley so he could harm Clinton in the process.

Palmer Report, Michael Flynn is absolutely screwing Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and he doesn’t care, Bill Palmer, March 12, 2017. One month after Donald Trump and Mike Pence upended Michael Flynn’s life by making him the first scapegoat in the Russia scandal, Flynn (shown in a file photo) is now doing the same in kind. It’s not entirely clear whether Flynn is looking for revenge or merely looking to protect himself at all cost. But either way, Flynn is taking steps to try to save his own ass, and if that just happens to hurt the two co-conspirators who fired him, he clearly no longer cares.

Michael Flynn fileMake no mistake: when Michael Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent this week, he set off a bomb within the Trump-Russia scandal. Flynn is now coming clean about the half a million dollars he took from a Turkish government intermediary, and when he took it. In the process he’s indirectly exposed the fact that Donald Trump and Mike Pence both knew Flynn was on the take from a hostile foreign government at the time they made him National Security Adviser.

Worse, Flynn has exposed that Trump and Pence both lied about it to the public. Even worse than that, it’s blown apart the claim that Flynn was forced out because he lied to Pence about his phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.

Pence can no longer believably paint himself as this put-upon innocent character who had no idea Flynn was a dirty rat until he read about it in the headlines. If Pence lied to the American public about knowing Flynn was dirty on Turkey, then it’s a reasonable assumption that Pence lied about knowing Flynn was dirty on Russia as well. Just how much did Mike Pence know about the Russia scandal at the time? And so as bad as this is for Trump, it may be worse for Pence

New York Times, Bharara Shunned Politics. His End Was Tinged by Them, Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Matthew Goldstein and William K. Rashbaum, March 12, 2017. Throughout his tenure as a United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara harped on one theme: Politics and prosecution do not mix. Preet BhararaTen days into his tenure as United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara (shown in an official photo) saw his political and prosecutorial worlds collide.

He convened a meeting to discuss a sensitive investigation of a  Democratic donor with ties to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Mr. Bharara had been Mr. Schumer’s chief counsel, and Mr. Schumer had recommended Mr. Bharara for the prosecutorial post.

At the meeting, Mr. Bharara asked his prosecutors if there was enough evidence to make a case against the donor, Hassan Nemazee. One of the prosecutors, Daniel W. Levy, who is now in private practice, would recall years later that he had told Mr. Bharara that there had been a wide-reaching bank fraud.

“Then take him,” Mr. Bharara said. That case — one of his very first as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan — foreshadowed a theme that Mr. Bharara harped on throughout his tenure pursuing a host of public corruption, terrorism, civil rights and Wall Street cases: Politics and prosecution do not mix.

Yet now, more than seven years after taking office, Mr. Bharara, 48, finds himself on what appears to be the losing end of a quintessential political decision.

White Collar Crime Blog, More on the 46 U.S. Attorneys Asked to Resign, Ellen Podgor (law professor and blog editor), March 12, 2017. It is fairly typical that US Attorneys offer their resignations when a new President, especially one of a different party, is elected. But firings and requiring same-day resignations are less common.

This is particularly troublesome as many were finishing up work on current cases. Of the 46 who had not left and asked for their resignations this week were a few that it is sad to see leaving their post. I don't know all 46, but some that I do are mentioned below.

David Capp, U.S. Attorney Northern District of Indiana. Attorney Capp had planned to retire in June 2017. He issued a thoughtful statement here. He thanks the "men and women of the USAO for their dedication and professionalism, day-in and day-out." 

"Some years ago I spoke one evening at a church in Gary. We had just made some arrests and closed down a drug operation in the neighborhood the church served. Afterwards a gentleman came up to me, shook my hand, thanked me for our efforts and told me “now my grandchildren can play in the yard again.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has much work ahead trying to match the work done by individuals of this caliber.

Global News

Recep ErdoganNew York Times, Turkey’s Europe Relations Sink Amid Quarrel With Dutch, Patrick Kingsley and Alissa J. Rubin, March 12, 2017. Turkey’s president (shown above) accused the Netherlands of “Nazism,” after it barred two Turkish ministers and as a referendum on a new Turkish Constitution looms.

Turkey’s quarrel with Europe worsened over the weekend after the Turkish president accused the Dutch government of Nazism, and Turkish politicians were barred or Flag of Turkeydisinvited from events in two European countries, amid tensions ahead of a tight referendum on a new Turkish Constitution.

Having criticized German officials for barring their Turkish counterparts from campaign events this month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned his ire on the Netherlands after the Dutch stopped the Turkish foreign minister from landing there for a rally on Saturday, and then escorted the Turkish family minister out of the country early on Sunday, citing risks to public order and security.

March 11

Alexander AcostaAssociated Press via Northwest Indiana Times, Trump's labor nominee likely to be asked about Florida case, Curt Anderson and Laurie Kellman, March 11, 2017. Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta is expected to face questions at his Senate confirmation hearing about an unusual plea deal he oversaw for a billionaire sex offender while U.S. attorney in Miami.

Acosta (shown in a file photo) has won confirmation for federal posts three times previously, but he has never faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill for his time as U.S. attorney.

Critics, including attorneys for some underage victims of financier Jeffrey Epstein, say the plea agreement was a "sweetheart deal" made possible only by Epstein's wealth, connections and high-powered lawyers. Acosta has defended his decisions as the best outcome given evidence available at the time.

"Some may feel that the prosecution should have been tougher. Evidence that has come to light since 2007 may encourage that view," Acosta wrote in a March 2011 letter to media outlets after leaving the U.S. attorney's office. "Had these additional statements and evidence been known, the outcome may have been different. But they were not known to us at the time."

Senate aides from both parties expect Democrats to raise the case during Acosta's confirmation hearing Wednesday as an example of him not speaking up for less-powerful people. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

Patty MurraySen. Patty Murray (shown in an official photo), the leading Democrat on the committee, said in a statement she met with Acosta on Thursday and is concerned about whether he would "stand up to political pressure" and advocate for workers as labor secretary. Unlike Trump's original choice for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, Acosta is expected to win confirmation.

The Florida International University law school dean was nominated after Puzder, a fast-food executive, withdrew over his hiring of an undocumented immigrant housekeeper and other issues.

Acosta, 48, has previously won Senate confirmation as Miami U.S. attorney, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division and the National Labor Relations Board.

Washington Post, Bannon led a mysterious life as he built a conservative movement, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, March 11, 2017. In the three years before he became Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon lived as a virtual nomad in a quest to build a populist political insurgency. No presidential adviser in recent memory has followed such a mysterious, peripatetic path to the White House. It was as though he was a man with no fixed address.

He owned a house and condo in Southern California, where he had entertainment and consulting businesses, a driver’s license and a checking account. He claimed Florida as his residence, registering to vote in Miami and telling authorities he lived at the same address as his third ex-wife.

Trump Justice Department

Preet BhararaBoston Globe via New York Times, In showdown with Trump, US prosecutor is fired, Maggie Haberman, March 11, 2017. Preet Bharara (above), the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, was fired Saturday after he refused to submit his resignation. Bharara’s dismissal capped an extraordinary showdown in which a political appointee declined an order to submit a resignation.

“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” Bharara wrote on his personal Twitter feed Saturday afternoon. The Southern District of New York, which Bharara has overseen since 2009, encompasses Manhattan, Trump’s home before he was elected president, as well as the Bronx, Westchester, and other counties north of New York City.

Trump last weekend accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan, an allegation he has yet to back up. But federal investigators have been examining whether there was a connection between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Intelligence officials believe that the hacking of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and campaign officials for Hillary Clinton was orchestrated by the Kremlin.

White House Fence-Jumper

Washington Post, Man arrested on White House grounds got close to entrance, court records say, Peter Hermann, Ian Shapira and Carol D. Leonnig​, ​March 11, 2017. The suspect — identified as Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran, 26, of California — hid behind a pillar before he was spotted and apprehended near the South Portico entrance, documents state. The U.S. Secret Service declined to answer questions about how the man penetrated so deep onto the grounds.

Global News

Consortium News, A Flawed UN Investigation on Syria, Gareth Porter, March 11, 2017. Exclusive: U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda, especially on the war in Syria, as occurred in a distorted report about last year’s attack on an aid convoy.

The March 1 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry“ asserted that the bloody attack on a humanitarian aid convoy west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was an airstrike by Syrian government planes. But an analysis of the U.N. panel’s report shows that it was based on an account of the attack from the pro-rebel Syrian “White Helmets” civil defense organization that was full of internal contradictions.

March 10

Around the Nation

Philly.com, First of kind lawsuit accuses N.E. Philly hotel of accommodating sex trafficking, Joseph A. Slobodzian, March 10, 2017. A Northeast Philadelphia motel that prosecutors have called the city’s “epicenter of human trafficking” was sued Friday under a recent state law for permitting the pimping of a teenage girl in one of its rooms for two years.

The suit, filed in Common Pleas Court, was the first under a 2014 state law that allows victims of sex traffickers to sue hotels and motels where abuse occurs. “This is a message to the entire motel and hotel industry that if you allow and enable trafficking of youngsters, young women, or any person on your facilities, you will be held responsible and sued for damages under the law,” said Center City lawyer Thomas R. Kline.

Feds Flout New FOIA Law?

National Security Archive (at George Washington University), Three out of Five Federal Agencies Flout New FOIA Law, Staff report, March 10, 2017. Only 38 of 99 Agencies Have Updated Their FOIA Rules; Out-of-Date Rules Rob Requesters of Appeal Rights. Three out of five of all federal agencies are flouting the new law that improved the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and required them to update their FOIA regulations, according to the new National Security Archive FOIA Audit released today to celebrate Sunshine Week.

The National Security Archive Audit found that only 38 out of 99 federal agencies have updated their FOIA regulations in compliance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 that was passed with bipartisan, bicameral support. The new law required agencies to update their FOIA regulations within 180 days of passage – that was June 30 so December 27, 2016 was the deadline.

Defender of JFK Lone Assassin Theory

Washington Decoded, Jim Garrison: Trump Before Trump, Donald H. Carpenter, March 11, 2017. This March marks the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in US history: the persecution of Clay Shaw by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. It is an unprecedented and Byzantine saga by any standard. Today it may seem slightly less bizarre because the occupant of the Oval Office — like Garrison — is a conspiracy theorist and pathological liar, one who finds the likes of Roger Stone, Michael Levin, and Alex Jones significant and credible.

But the story ought to be recounted on this anniversary, if only as a reminder that what Richard Hofstadter memorably called the “paranoid style of politics” is not exclusive to the right. It has more than its share of purveyors, practitioners, and cheerleaders on the left.

Global News

Syrian President Bashar Al-AssadReuters via New York Post, Assad: US forces in Syria are ‘invaders,’ Staff report, March 11, 2017. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (shown in a file photo of an interview) said he had yet to see “anything concrete” from U.S. President Donald Trump over his vow to defeat Islamic State and called U.S. forces in Syria “invaders” because they were there without government permission. Assad, in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix, said “in theory” he still saw scope for cooperation with Trump though practically nothing had happened in this regard. Assad said Trump’s campaign pledge to prioritize the defeat of Islamic State had been “a promising approach” but added: “We haven’t seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric.”

SouthFront, No One Invited US to Manbij, All Foreign Troops in Syria without Permission Are ‘Invaders’ – Bashar Assad, Staff report, March 11, 2017. Syria FlagAccording to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, US military have not coordinated about their presence in the area of the Syrian city of Manbij with the country’s authorities. The presence of US military in the area of the Syrian city of Manbij was not agreed with the country’s authorities, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with the Phoenix TV television channel. The full text of the interview was published on a website of the Sana news agency on March 11.

According to the head of the state, “any foreign troops, coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one.” The state’s head also added liberation of the city of Raqqa, which now is the main stronghold of the IS, will become a priority for government troops in the near future. According to him, liberation of Raqqa and Deir-Ez-Zor can take several months.

Consortium News, A Flawed UN Investigation on Syria, Gareth Porter, March 11, 2017. Exclusive: U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda, especially on the war in Syria, as occurred in a distorted report about last year’s attack on an aid convoy.

The March 1 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry“ asserted that the bloody attack on a humanitarian aid convoy west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was an airstrike by Syrian government planes. But an analysis of the U.N. panel’s report shows that it was based on an account of the attack from the pro-rebel Syrian “White Helmets” civil defense organization that was full of internal contradictions.

March 10

New York Times, Trump Demands 46 U.S. Attorneys Quit, Including Bharara, Charlies Savage and Maggie Haberman, March 10, 2017. President Trump told Preet Bhararathe holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately, including — surprisingly — Preet Bharara (shown in an official photo), the federal prosecutor in Manhattan. 

The Trump administration moved on Friday to sweep away most of the remaining vestiges of Obama administration prosecutors at the Justice Department, ordering 46 holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately — including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases and for investigating insider trading. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told reporters afterward that both Mr. Trump and Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.

But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. As of Friday evening, though some of the prosecutors had publicly announced their resignations, Mr. Bharara had not. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email that all remaining holdover United States attorneys had been asked to resign, leaving their deputy United States attorneys, who are career officials, in place in an acting capacity.

The abrupt order came after two weeks of increasing calls from Mr. Trump’s allies outside the government to oust appointees from President Barack Obama’s administration. Mr. Trump has been angered by a series of reports based on leaked information from a sprawling bureaucracy, as well as from his own West Wing.

Several officials said the firings had been planned before Friday.

But the calls from the acting deputy attorney general arose a day after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said on his evening show that Mr. Trump needed to “purge” Obama holdovers from the federal government. Mr. Hannity portrayed them as “saboteurs” from the “deep state” who were leaking secrets to hurt Mr. Trump. It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.

New York Times, Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey During Campaign, Peter Baker and Matthew Rosenberg, March 10, 2017. Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump's first national security adviser, who resigned after Flag of Turkeyless than a month, accepted more than $500,000 to investigate a Turkish cleric in Pennsylvania, documents show. The candidate he was advising last fall was running on a platform of America First. The client he was working for last fall was paying him more than $500,000 to put Turkey first.

Michael T. Flynn, who went from the campaign trail to the White House as President Trump's first national security adviser, filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States.

His surprising admission, coming more than four months after the election, raised further questions about the rise and fall of a presidential confidant who was forced to resign after 24 days in office for withholding the full story of his communications with Russia's ambassador. Even now, out of government and out of favor, Mr. Flynn and his contact with foreign figures presented a fresh headache for a White House eager to move on.

Michael  FlynnMr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers with the Justice Department registering as a foreign agent, providing a fuller understanding of his role, until Tuesday. While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with ties to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

The White House said that Mr. Trump did not know that Mr. Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when Mr. Trump appointed him national security adviser, a position that gave him access to classified meetings and materials. But a person briefed on the matter, who insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations, said Mr. Flynn's lawyer contacted a lawyer for Mr. Trump's transition team before the inauguration to ask whether Mr. Flynn should register given his work for Inovo.

The transition lawyer offered no advice, saying it was up to Mr. Flynn. After the inauguration, the person said, Mr. Flynn and his lawyer each raised it again with a White House lawyer, only to be told once more it was up to him. Mr. Flynn had no comment on Friday. His lawyer wrote the Justice Department that Mr. Flynn decided to register retroactively "to eliminate any potential doubt."

Vice President Mike Pence, who was upset that Mr. Flynn had misled him about the conversation with the Russian ambassador that got him dismissed, seemed less forgiving. News reports on the matter were "the first I heard of it," the vice president said during an interview on Fox News Thursday night, "and I think it is an affirmation of the president's decision to ask General Flynn to resign."

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Flynn positioned himself as someone willing to call out a national security establishment that was too corrupt to keep America safe. When former colleagues criticized him for becoming overtly partisan, he shot back by castigating them for using their titles to enrich themselves by joining corporate boards.

In an interview in October, Mr. Flynn insisted that he had eschewed financial rewards to follow his political convictions and join the Trump campaign. "I would love to be making some money," he said. "I wish I could stop what I'm doing."

On behalf of his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, Mr. Flynn signed a contract on Aug. 9 with Inovo, a Dutch firm owned by Ekim Alptekin, chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. Mr. Flynn's firm was to receive $600,000 for 90 days of work. His initial registration as a lobbyist last year indicated he would receive less than $5,000 for lobbying, although that presumably indicates that he did not define most of the services he would provide Mr. Alptekin as lobbying under the law.

Mr. Alptekin has ties to the government of Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has engaged in a political crackdown after surviving a military coup attempt in July. In documents disclosed by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, Mr. Alptekin emailed frequently with Egemen Bagis, the former Turkish minister for European Union affairs. In one email in 2013, Mr. Alptekin sent an article from The Wall Street Journal to Mr. Bagis, who then forwarded it to Berat Albayrak, Mr. Erdogan's son-in-law and now the country's energy minister.

Mr. Flynn was assigned to investigate Fethullah Gulen (above at left), a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and was blamed by Mr. Erdogan for helping instigate the failed coup.

Medicaid Cuts In Store?

Huffington Post, Paul Ryan Seems Excited To Kick People Off Medicaid, Arthur Delaney, The Republican health care bill goes a lot further than just repealing Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan sees repealing Obamacare as a historic opportunity to reduce the welfare rolls.

Paul RyanIn an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Ryan (R-Wis.) compared his legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act to the vaunted 1996 welfare reform law, which basically ended the federal government’s commitment to cash assistance for parents in poverty. “This is so much bigger, by orders of magnitude, than welfare reform,” Ryan (shown in an official photo) said.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act made more people eligible for Medicaid, which currently provides health insurance for nearly 70 million Americans. The Republican health care bill would roll back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and also dramatically reform the way Medicaid works.

States currently administer Medicaid with a commitment from the federal government, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars per year, to help pay for as many enrollees as might be eligible due to low income. The Republicans’ American Health Care Act would limit that open-ended commitment by capping federal funding for states based on the number of enrollees rather than the cost of their medical claims.

As Ryan put it on Friday, “We are de-federalizing an entitlement, block granting it back to the states, and capping its growth rate. That’s never been done before.”

White House Changes In Media Policies

Washington Post, What’s a legitimate news outlet? A new face in the White House press pool raises questions, Paul Farhi, March 10, 2017.  In an age of partisan media, the lines between “partisan” and “media” can sometimes blur. Some journalists suggest the presence of a reporter from the conservative Heritage Foundation-owned Daily Signal crossed a symbolic line into greater legitimacy for the partisan press.

Case in point: The pool reporter covering Vice President Pence on Thursday — that is, the reporter who supplied details about Pence’s daily activities as proxy for the rest of the press corps — was an employee of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank.

In other words, the news that reporters received about the vice president came from a journalist employed by an organization with a vested interest in the direction of White House and federal policy.

Washington Post, Just another three hours at the Trump White House, Philip Bump, March 10, 2017. 11:44 a.m.: The White House press corps is invited into a conversation President Trump was hosting with House Republicans in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The subject was the health-care bill hustling its way to the House floor; the president used the occasion to outline several arguments for the bill’s passage with the media in attendance.

Donald TrumpAbout 12:30 p.m.: The president thanks the pool, indicating that they should leave. Reporters, including ABC’s Jonathan Karl, try to use the occasion to ask Trump questions, instead of simply observing the interaction with the House members. Trump ignores them.

1:26 p.m.: Shortly before White House press secretary Sean Spicer is slated to begin his daily press briefing, there’s some commotion in the briefing room among the reporters. Lucian Wintrich, a staffer for the site Gateway Pundit, which gained press credentials under the Trump administration, enters the briefing room and is accosted by a reporter for Fox News Radio, according to BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo. Update: In a statement, Decker denied accosting Wintrich. “Earlier today I had a conversation with a representative from the online publication Gateway Pundit,” it reads. “The conversation was straightforward and direct. … At no time did I accost or assault this individual.”

On Thursday evening, Gateway Pundit published a story touting a long-debunked claim about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. It’s well known for propagating other false stories, as well.

Trump Supporters

Roger StoneThe Hill, Trump adviser admits to contact with DNC hacker, Brooke Seipel, March 10, 2017. Roger Stone, President Trump's former campaign adviser, on Friday admitted to having private conversations with a hacker who helped leak information from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during last year's campaign. Stone insisted to The Washington Times that the conversations were "completely innocuous."

"It was so perfunctory, brief and banal I had forgotten it," Stone told The Times of a private Twitter conversation he had with a hacker known as Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer 2.0 is believed by the U.S. intelligence community to be a cover identity for Russian intelligence operatives. The intelligence community concluded that Moscow sought to interfere in last year's election to help Trump win.

Stone told the Times he exchanged a handful of messages with Guccifer 2.0 in the weeks following a hack of the DNC, which was revealed in late July. In one message from Aug. 14, Stone said he was "delighted" that Guccifer 2.0's Twitter account had been reinstated after being suspended. "wow. thank u for writing back, and thank u for an article about me!!! do u find anything interesting in the docs i posted?" Guccifer 2.0 wrote to Stone, referring to an article Stone wrote for Breitbart News on Aug. 5 which attributed the DNC breach to Guccifer 2.0.

"i'm pleased to say that u r great man. please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me," Guccifer 2.0 wrote in an Aug. 17 message to Stone. Stone tweeted on Aug. 21, "Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta's time in the barrel." Weeks later, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's hacked emails were leaked to WikiLeaks, leading many to believe Stone was aware in advance of the hack. Stone denied any connection to the hacks at the time.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security last December released a joint report detailing how federal investigators linked the Russian government to hacks of Democratic Party organizations. Reports from the intelligence community said Guccifer 2.0 was used to publicly release the data from hacks, but that the hacks themselves were conducted by Russia.

Around the Nation

Dealey Plaza Panorama (Andrew Kreig Photo)

 Robert Groden, a photo expert and citizen activist, arranged the release of the Zapruder film to ABC TV in 1975 showing the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy in Dealey Plaza, shown in a 2013 photo by the Justice Integrity Project.

Robert J. GrodenGroden, shown with his latest book "JFK: Absolute Proof" in Dealey Plaza, has repeated painted an "X" on the street in the approximate spot of Kennedy's fatal shooting as a reminder of the national tragedy. Local authorities repeatedly remove the spot, which is shown in a JIP photo framed by the picket fence suspected by many researchers as the hiding place for a shooter.

Dallas Observer, Robert Groden, JFK Expert, Settles with Dallas After 82 Bad Arrests, Jim Schutze, The question has always been why. Why did the city of Dallas carry out a decades-long manifestly illegal campaign of persecution against a Dallas author. Now that author, a Kennedy assassination expert whose theories differ from what he says is an official city doctrine, has agreed to a modest out-of-court settlement. But a City Council member is still intent on finding out what was behind the campaign to make Robert Groden disappear.

John F. Kennedy side profileIn what may or may not be the long-awaited end of his legal horror story, Groden, 71 years old and weakened by two recent strokes, has accepted a $25,000 settlement from the city of Dallas in exchange for his agreement to drop a civil rights suit.

Over seven years, the city has arrested or ticketed Groden 82 times for selling books and videotapes from a table in Dealey Plaza where President John F. Kennedy (shown in a file photo) was murdered in 1963. Dallas kept ticketing and arresting Groden even though the city's own municipal judges ruled all of those tickets and arrests were bogus. What he was doing was never against the law, and somewhere between the 20th and 30th defeats in court the city had to figure that out.

This week when news of the settlement became known, City Council member Philip Kingston vowed to continue fighting to find out who was behind all of it in the first place. "The truth is that he was being targeted," Kingston said. "It's crystal clear. So I have asked [Dallas City Attorney Larry] Casto to go dig and find out who ordered all this crap. No cop did that on his own."

Dealey Plaza Picket Fence (Andrew Kreig Photo)Casto, a former city lobbyist named city attorney last October, appears to be sweeping his decks clear of some legacy litigation, of which this case may be part. He said the settlement with Groden is not an admission of wrongdoing by the city and is not a guarantee that Groden can't be prosecuted for something else in the future. But he did suggest that the worst of it — the tickets and arrests for doing things not against the law — probably is over: "As long as he doesn't break any laws, he will not receive any additional citations.

Two years ago when Groden sued the city in federal court for civil rights violations, the city argued that he didn't have a case because he couldn't name an official city policy or a specific city official or person responsible for launching a campaign against him. A federal appeals court threw all of that out last year, ruling basically that the city did it and the city was responsible for what it did, whether Groden could name anybody or not.

I have always believed the Groden case was the perfect window on how Dallas City Hall really operates. Somebody outside of City Hall, somebody high up, has the ability to call the city manager and basically order that something be done. So it's done. The City Council and mayor don't even know it's happening.

Global News

 

South KoreaWashington Post, S. Korean president removed from office over bribery scandal, Anna Fifield​, March 10, 2017. In a decision that could change the political direction of a key U.S. ally, South Korea's Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary motion to dismiss Park Geun-hye from office over her role in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal. Park could now face criminal charges, and elections for a new president must be held within 60 days.

SouthFront, Intense Fighting Ongoing In Jirah Airbase In Aleppo Province, Multiple Airstrikes Reported, Staff report, March 10, 2017. Intense fighting is ongoing in the area of the Jirah Airbase in the Syrian province of Aleppo. Earlier this week, the Syrian army’s Tiger Forces reached the ISIS-held airbase and successfully etenred it, engaging terrrorists in clashes in the area. See in related news, SouthFront, Turkey Attacks Syrian Troops West Of Manbij, Staff report, March 10, 2017.

Donald Trump (Tax Wall Street Party image) Washington Post, The mystery of Donald Trump and the New Jersey cemetery, David A. Fahrenthold​, March 10, 2017. Trump (shown in an image by the Tax Wall Street Party) has been talking about building cemeteries in Bedminster, N.J., for a decade. And when officials at one point expressed concerns about the plans, he suggested the tomb could be versatile — perhaps host a wedding. Local officials weren't fooled by that and were left wondering what angle Trump was playing.

WhoWhatWhy, The CIA vs. Donald Trump, Jeff Schechtman, March 10, 2017. John Kiriakou was a 15-year CIA veteran before he exposed its torture WhoWhatWhyprogram. Today he analyzes an agency unchecked by oversight and whose power is underestimated by the Trump administration.

March 9

House Replacement of Health Care Law

Washington Post, Two key House panels approve GOP proposal to replace Obamacare, Elise Viebeck, Sean Sullivan and Mike DeBonis​, March 9, 2017. ​The accelerated pace and lack of price tag have drawn criticism from Democrats, who contrasted it with the lengthy deliberations that took place before passage of the Affordable Care Act, as well as some Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that lawmakers need to see the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of how the bill will affect the federal deficit.

Washington Post, Critics say proceeding without budget score is reckless; White House downplays its importance, Karen Tumulty and Max Ehrenfreund, March 9, 2017. ​ While it is not uncommon for panels to consider legislation without the Congressional Budget Office first weighing in, veterans of the process say that doing so on bills as far-reaching as the health-care overhaul is rare — and ill-advised.

Cyber Security

Washington Post, WikiLeaks will release software code of CIA hacking tools to tech firms, Ellen Nakashima, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Devlin Barrett​, March 9, 2017. ​Julian Assange said the group had "decided to work with" companies so that flaws in smartphones and other products could be fixed.

Scrutiny of Trump Conflicts

WhoWhatWhy, Who Will Guard Election Integrity If GOP Takes Down the EAC? Mary McGowan, March 9, 2017. Republicans, who cry voter WhoWhatWhyfraud to disenfranchise minorities, want to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which helps ensure that secure elections are held.

New York Times, Will a Leak Reveal Trump's Tax Returns? Don't Hold Your Breath, Alan Rappaport, March 9, 2017. The early days of the Trump administration have turned Washington into a land of leaks, with a national security adviser's telephone calls, raw intelligence dossiers and confidential C.I.A. surveillance schemes spilling into the public. But the holy grail of leaks remains elusive: President Trump's tax returns.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump broke with 40 years of tradition as a presidential candidate, declining to make his tax information public on the grounds that he was undergoing an I.R.S. audit. The government has made clear that is, in fact, no impediment to release, but since corporations like the Trump Organization are audited constantly, the excuse will not disappear, and he is not expected ever to release his returns willingly.

So how might Mr. Trump's returns come to light? If you're thinking about a rogue I.R.S. agent or Russian cybertheft, don't count on it. Although the I.R.S. has nearly 80,000 employees, the agency uses strict safeguards when it comes to privacy. The number of people with access to returns is limited, and improper browsing of taxpayer files is automatically flagged.

Democratic lawmakers lately have been playing the national security card, clinging to the notion that congressional investigations into Mr. Trump's ties with Russia will be the key. Twice this month they have forced votes to demand the returns' release, but Republicans have closed ranks around the president. The next best hope is the coming wave of "emoluments" lawsuits that allege Mr. Trump is in violation of the Constitution because his business operations accept payments from foreign governments.

If the court system seems too cumbersome, there are potential targets beyond the I.R.S. Mr. Trump's lawyers and accountants who keep copies of his returns could also be vulnerable to hacking. And the White House and Trump Tower, where copies of Mr. Trump's files could potentially be stored, have also proved susceptible to leaks.

Media

Washington Post, How Trump and his team are trying to change politics through the use of language, Marc Fisher, March 9 2017. The language of the Trump administration rubs many politicians of both parties the wrong way. It's designed to break through partisan paralysis, spark an America-first nationalism and persuade Trump supporters that the new president meant it when he said at his inauguration that "the hour of action" has commenced.

Politico Magazine, White House: Don't call it 'Trumpcare,' Matthew Nussbaum and Jennifer Haberkorn, March 9, 2017. Critics are hijacking the branding process for the GOP health plan as the White House resists slapping the president's name on it. He built his career in large part by plastering his name on skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, books, wines and steaks, but there appears to be one place President Donald Trump does not want his favorite five-letter word — the Republican health care bill. Before Obamacare, there was Romneycare. Back in the 1990s, there was Hillarycare. For a brief moment in the 2012 GOP primary, there was even Obamneycare (Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty quickly abandoned the phrase and, in August 2011, his campaign for the nomination). But the White House, for all its messaging woes and infighting, has settled on the fact that — for the time being — it's steering clear of Trumpcare.

Around the Nation

NBC News, Lawyer's Pants Catch Fire During Florida Arson Trial, Kalhan Rosenblatt, March 9, 2017. It seemed like a set up to a tired joke: A lawyer's pants caught on fire in court. But on Wednesday, it was Stephen Gutierrez's reality when the Florida defense attorney's pants began smoking during an arson trial, Eleventh Circuit Court Public Relations Director Eunice Sigler confirmed to NBC News Thursday.

Gutierrez, 28, was in the in the Miami-Dade county courtroom defending 49-year-old Claudy Charles, who was accused of setting his car alight. But During his closing argument, Gutierrez began to feel heat coming from his pocket where he had several electric cigarette batteries, he told NBC News in an email.

Global News: Syria

SouthFront, Govt Forces Crash ISIS In Aleppo, Aim Raqqah, Voiceover by Harold Hoover, March 9, 2017. The Syrian Army's Tiger Forces, supported by the Syrian and Russian air forces, have continued making impressive gains against the ISIS terrorist group in the province of Aleppo. The Tiger Forces further advanced along the Euphrates River and entered the Jirah Airbase.

Now, when the ISIS-held town of Dier Hafer is de-facto cut-off from the rest of the ISIS-held area in central Syria, its liberation will become the main short-term goal of government forces. Experts believe that after Deir Hafer government forces will likely advance along the Deir Hafer-al-Tabaqah road, expanding the buffer zone east of Khanasser and putting additional pressure on ISIS units operating in the area of Raqqah.

The hidden Russian-US cooperation in Syria was already proven with the Manbij case when Moscow and Washington acted together in order to prevent the Turkish army and pro-Turkish militant groups from attacking Kurdish forces in the area. There is a chance that the US and Russia will act jointly in order to retake the ISIS self-proclaimed capital of Raqqah even if this is not promoted openly in the mainstream media. If government forces reach al-Tabqa, they will isolate Raqqah from the southern flank and US-backed forces will be able to avoid the need to cut across the Euphrates River in the area. In this case, the fall of Raqqah will take place much faster then it's expected by experts.

New Zealand Herald, Billionaire Peter Thiel's secret Kiwi spy links revealed, Matt Nippert, March 9, 2017. New Zealand spy agencies and our elite Special Air Service soldiers have long-standing commercial links with a controversial big-data company founded by surprise Kiwi Peter Thiel, the Herald can reveal.An investigation into Thiel's links to New Zealand has found his firm Palantir Technologies has counted the New Zealand Defence Force, the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications and Security Bureau as clients with contracts dating back to at least 2012.

The revelation caused Kennedy Graham, Green Party spokesman for intelligence and security matters, to call for a delay to the passage of the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill, which today passed its second and penultimate reading.Graham said the New Zealand-Palantir connection was "potentially huge" and raised more questions than it answered. "The Parliament should not be too hasty until these things properly come to light," he said.The connections between Palantir - controversial in the United States over its long links with National Security Agency surveillance operations and Thiel's backing of President Donald Trump - and the New Zealand government has long been shrouded in secrecy.Questions sent to spokespeople for Thiel and Palantir both went unanswered this week.

March 8

House Replacement of Health Care Law

Washington Post, Backlash grows against House GOP proposal to replace Obamacare, Mike DeBonis, Robert Costa and David Weigel, March 8, 2017.​  Lawmakers prepared for a marathon day sifting through a Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoRepublican proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which has met with widespread resistance from conservatives in and out of Congress, moderates in the Senate and key industry stakeholders since House GOP leaders released it on Monday.

Washington Post, Trump's First 100 Days: POTUS launches 'full-court press' on health plan, Elise Viebeck, March 8, 2017. Opponents of the GOP's American Health Care Act include Democrats, conservatives, and organizations that represent U.S. hospitals, physicians and retirees.

Washington Post, Conservatives meet with Trump, who hints that GOP ACA fix could drift further right, David Weigel and Sean Sullivan, March 8, 2017. Representatives of FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action for America will attend the meeting Wednesday night.

WikiLeaks Expose on CIA Snooping

WikiLeaks logoWashington Post, Spicer won't confirm documents posted by WikiLeaks — but he wants Democrats to be much more outraged about them, Jenna Johnson, March 8, 2017. Sean Spicer repeatedly said the government's policy is to not confirm the authenticity of sensitive information that might have been leaked or hacked. By Spicer won't confirm documents posted by WikiLeaks — but he wants Democrats to be much more outraged about them

Washington Post, Experts startled at apparent CIA targeting of staples of modern life, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Ellen Nakashima, March 8, 2017. The latest revelations about the U.S. government's powerful hacking tools potentially take surveillance right into the homes and pockets of billions of users worldwide, showing how everyday devices can be turned to spy on their owners.

Capital Questions

CNN, Graham ready to subpoena for Trump wiretap information, Manu Raja, March 8, 2017.​ Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday he is ready to subpoena the intelligence agencies for evidence that would prove President Donald Trump's claims that he was wiretapped last year by then-President Barack Obama. Asked by CNN if he would subpoena for any evidence, the South Carolina Republican said, "Yes."
"All I can say is that the country needs an answer to this. The current President has accused the former President of basically wiretapping his campaign," Graham said, one day after he joined Trump for a one-on-one lunch at the White House.

Graham and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey and the acting deputy attorney general Wednesday, requesting any information regarding Trump's claims.  "We request that the Department of Justice provide us copies of any warrant applications and court orders — redacted as necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods that may be compromised by disclosure, and to protect any ongoing investigations — related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower," Graham and Whitehouse wrote.

Washington Post, Drain the swamp? No, let's just move it, Rep. Chaffetz suggests, Jenna Portnoy, March 8, 2017.​ Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) wants to do more than drain the swamp. He wants to dismantle it piece by piece and redistribute it to the rest of America. Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, proposed a resolution Wednesday that says Congress thinks it is unnecessary for federal agencies to be located in the District.

The committee held a hearing Wednesday and planned to vote Thursday. The nonbinding resolution raised the ire of local Democratic lawmakers already fighting efforts by the Republican majority to intervene in the District's local laws and policies pertaining to gun control, assisted suicide, subsidized abortion and legalized marijuana.

Chaffetz's measure — which he called Divest D.C. — dovetails with President Trump's federal hiring freeze and his calls to "drain the swamp." Both the House and Senate would have to pass the resolution and Trump would have to sign it for it to become the official position of the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, legislation that would require all federal agencies in the District to relocate their headquarters outside the metropolitan area was introduced last month by Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.). It has yet to get a hearing. With Divest D.C., Chaffetz argued that the economic development benefits associated with government jobs should be spread beyond the District. Advances in travel and technology make it easier for agency workers to do their jobs elsewhere, he said.

In the hearing, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting delegate, noted that 85 percent of federal workers live outside the D.C. region. She derided the resolution as bordering on "frivolous and laughable" and befitting a freshman lawmaker — not a seasoned committee chairman such as Chaffetz.

Justice System News

Sergey Kislyak 2016Huffington Post, Jeff Sessions Likely Met Russian Ambassador A Third Time, Christina Wilkie, March 8, 2017. The attorney general initially denied any contact with the Russians, then later admitted to just two meetings with the ambassador (shown in a file photo).

Politico, Sessions: Changes coming to policies on drug charges, Josh Gerstein, March 8, 2017.​ Attorney General Jeff Sessions is signaling that the Trump administration plans to make changes to policies the Obama administration implemented to seek less serious charges in some drug cases. In a memo sent to federal prosecutors nationwide Wednesday, Sessions called on them to crack down on violent crime. Most surely already view that as a core part of their duties.

Justice Department logoLegal experts said the language indicates that Sessions is planning to make significant revisions to policies Attorney General Eric Holder issued in 2010 backing away from prior directions that prosecutors seek the most serious viable charges in every case and in 2013 calling for prosecutors to avoid seeking mandatory minimum sentences in some cases by leaving the quantity of drugs seized out of charging documents.

If new Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys push for more aggressive handling of cases, defendants could be looking at more serious charges and longer prison terms in the coming years.

Politico, Lawyers dispute White House claims on Bush Guantanamo releases, Josh Gerstein, March 8, 2017.​ The Trump White House's effort to defend an inaccurate presidential tweet about Guantanamo prisoners appears to have compounded the error. On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted: "122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!"

In fact, the vast majority of those men were released under President George W. Bush, with only eight or nine of those "confirmed" to be engaged in terrorist activities transferred out under President Barack Obama, according to recent intelligence reports. White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in clarifying the tweet, said Trump "meant that the total number of people released from Gitmo was 122. Just to be clear, there's a big difference: under the Bush administration, most of those were court ordered," Spicer told reporters at the daily briefing. But Spicer seemed to stray from the facts when he then tried to defend Bush by saying he had no choice but to release many of the detainees.

"The truth is that Sean Spicer doesn't know what he is talking about and doesn't care enough to take the time to find out," said former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig, who was deeply involved in Obama's early Guantanamo policy.

Trump Critics

Washington Post, Voters don't like what they see from Trump on Russia, Jennifer Rubin, March 8, 2017.​

Global News: Syria & Afghanistan

SouthFront, ISIS Defenses Collapsing In Aleppo Province, Staff report, March 8, 2017. The Syrian army's Tiger Forces, backed by Russian warplanes, reached the Euphrates River in the province of Aleppo, liberating a large chunk of the area from ISIS. The town of Khafsah and the nearby Water Treatment Station were the most important gains. The liberation of the Khafsah Water Treatment Station will allow Syria Flagthe Assad government to restore water supplies to the city of Aleppo which had been disrupted when ISIS terrorists damaged the station.

The ISIS-held Jihar Military Airbase will likely become the next target in the province. While the airbase has a strategic value itself, controlling this site government forces will de-facto encircle the ISIS stronghold of Deir Hafer. This will allow to successfully retake this town from the terrorist group soon. Russian and US military servicemen closely cooperate in the outskirts of the city of Manbij controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Times reported.

New York Times, ISIS Leaders Are Fleeing Raqqa, U.S. Military Says, Michael R. Gordon, March 8, 2017. As Syrian fighters backed by the United States close in on Raqqa, some of the Islamic State's leaders have fled their self-declared capital and are planning to carry on the fight from other sanctuaries in Syria and Iraq, an American defense official said on Wednesday. The departure of some of the group's leadership does not mean that the battle to take Raqqa will be easy, the official said. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 fighters remain in the city.

Washington Post, Gunmen disguised as doctors attack military hospital in Kabul, killing at least 30, Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable​, March 8, 2017. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack by at least four gunman and involved a bombing and six-hour gun battle at the military hospital. A security official said the attackers wore white doctors' uniforms.

March 7

George Orawell Ignorance Is Strength

New York Times, WikiLeaks Files Describe C.I.A. Tools to Break Into Phones, Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Matthew Rosenberg, Documents that appear to be from the C.I.A. describe software designed to hack smartphones, computers and internet-connected TVs. They indicate that the agency, by compromising the phones entirely, was able to access the contents of encrypted messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp.

WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smartphones, computers and even CIA LogoInternet-connected televisions. If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.

The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said. Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect "audio and message traffic before encryption is applied."

The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been "circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive."

WikiLeaks logoWikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that "urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the C.I.A.'s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency." The source, the group said, "wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons."

The documents, from the C.I.A's Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016, and WikiLeaks described them as "the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency." One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Dean Boyd, said, "We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents."

WikiLeaks, which has sometimes been accused of recklessly leaking information that could do harm, said it had redacted names and other identifying information from the collection. It said it was not releasing the computer code for actual, usable cyberweapons "until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the C.I.A.'s program and how such 'weapons' should be analyzed, disarmed and published." (WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange is shown in a file photo.)

Julian AssangeSome of the details of the C.I.A. programs might have come from the plot of a spy novel for the cyberage, revealing numerous highly classified — and in some cases, exotic — hacking programs. One, code-named Weeping Angel, uses Samsung "smart" televisions as covert listening devices. According to the WikiLeaks news release, even when it appears to be turned off, the television "operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the internet to a covert C.I.A. server."

The release said the program was developed in cooperation with British intelligence.

If C.I.A. agents did manage to hack the smart TVs, they would not be the only ones. Since their release, internet-connected televisions have been a focus for hackers and cybersecurity experts, many of whom see the sets' ability to record and transmit conversations as a potentially dangerous vulnerability.

Washington Post, Trump and Republicans see a 'deep state' foe: Barack Obama, David Weigel, March 7, 2017. In conservative media, where the unproven wiretapping claim originated, President Trump has gotten credit for cracking open a plot by a "deep state" of critics and conspirators to bring down his presidency. And they claim the perpetrator is former president Barack Obama.

GOP Internal Disputes On Health Care Plan

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainWashington Post, Conservatives lash out at House GOP's Obamacare replacement bill, Mike Debonis, Elise Viebeck, David Weigel and Kelsey Snell, March 7, 2017. Influential conservative lawmakers and activist groups panned health-care legislation drafted by House Republican leaders, throwing the GOP's plan to undo the Affordable Care Act in serious doubt less than 24 hours after it was released.

Washington Post, House leaders brace for the task ahead: Selling 'Obamacare Lite,' Mike DeBonis, Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell​, March 7, 2017. A day after House leaders released a plan to supplant the Affordable Care Act, those same leaders braced for the task ahead: to forestall an outright revolt among conservative Republicans, who already showed signs of agitation. But Republicans got an early morning boost with a tweet from President Trump, who was scheduled to meet with House leaders today and was expected to discuss health care.

Inside the Trump White House

Politico, In the White House, former TV villain Omarosa is one of the 'blessed,' Tara Palmeri, March 7, 2017. The onetime 'Apprentice' star enjoys Trump's loyalty, but she's up to her old tricks. There's a word White House staffers use to describe Omarosa Manigault, "The Apprentice" contestant-turned-presidential aide: blessed.

When she landed her own conference room in the D.C. transition offices, that was blessed. When she was named to a newly created position with a senior title—Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison—that was blessed, too. And when the president himself held a chair for her, allowing her to take the seat next to him at a Black History Month event last month, that was definitely blessed. "Can you imagine the President of the United States pulling out a chair for an aide?" said one consultant close to the White House.

The president is known for being intensely devoted to people who were with him early in his unlikely campaign, but Manigault is a rarity among even that select group. Unlike other Trump staffers, she was a minor celebrity in her own right before joining his campaign—though she owes her fame to Trump, who cast her in the first season of "The Apprentice" in 2004. She became a walking one-name synonym for office backstabbing, dubbed one of the nastiest TV villains of all time by TV Guide.

The Omarosa phenomenon helped make the show a hit, giving Trump a springboard crucial ultimately winning the presidency. "Nobody is going to challenge Omarosa," said a former transition official. "She has a preexisting relationship with the President, and that has its own privileges."

Spies, Lies and Alleged Trump Ties

Washington Post, This former British lawmaker is at the heart of the Trump wiretap allegations, Karla Adam, March 6, 2017. A former British legislator is at the heart of the Trump administration's explosive allegation that President Barack Obama was spying on him during the 2016 campaign. But who exactly is Louise Mensch?

For starters, the politician-turned-journalist is the writer behind an article published on the eve of the election titled: "EXCLUSIVE: FBI 'Granted FISA Warrant' Covering Trump Camp's Ties To Russia."  The article, published on the right-leaning, libertarian website Heat Street, did not create much of a stir at the time.

But it has come under the spotlight after Trump, in a tweetstorm over the weekend, accused Obama of wiretapping his offices during the election campaign. Trump compared the alleged bugging to the Watergate scandal, but he has not offered any evidence to back up his claims. In tweets on Monday, Mensch emphasized that her reporting does not back up Trump's wiretapping claim, even though the White House cited her article to justify the allegation. She stressed that her reporting refers to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant and does not mention anything about wiretapping.

Trump Justice Department

Washington Post, Grilled on Russia probe, deputy attorney general pick sidesteps Democrats' call for special prosecutor, Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Sean Sullivan, March 7, 2017. Under insistent questioning from Democrats, deputy attorney general nominee Rod J. Rosenstein refused to commit Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to oversee investigations of Russian meddling in the presidential election — though he stressed that he did not yet know the facts of the matter. At a tense Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours, Rosenstein said that he was "not aware" of any reason he would not be able to supervise such probes.

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney General"You view it as an issue of principle, that I need to commit to appoint a special counsel in a matter that I don't even know if it's being investigated," he told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who had vowed to try to block his nomination should he not make such a commitment. "And I view it as an issue of principle that as a nominee for deputy attorney general, I should not be promising to take action on a particular case."

Rosenstein (shown in an official photo) is a respected prosecutor who has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. But on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans essentially turned him into a lightning rod, pressing him for answers on how he would handle any probes of Russian meddling in the U.S. election or Trump associates.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he was recusing himself from any campaign-related investigations after The Washington Post reported that he had met with the Russian ambassador twice during that campaign and had not disclosed that fact at his own confirmation hearing. That would mean supervision would fall to Rosenstein if he is confirmed.

Rosenstein said he would handle it "the way I would handle any investigation."

Asked whether he had any contact with Russian officials, he said that throughout his career, he has spoken to lawyers and judges visiting from foreign countries at events, and that "it's certainly possible there may have been Russian officials there." But he said he did not "recall any such meetings" with Russian officials. He also said he has not talked with Sessions about Russian contacts, and he sought to assure legislators that he would act in the best interests of the United States.

Trump Critics

Palmer Report, Donald Trump's jet setting Russian pal Dmitry Rybolovlev hires spokesman from Breitbart, Bill Palmer, March 7, 2017. For the past month Palmer Report has been reporting on the curious travel habits of Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who has a habit of flying halfway around the world on his private jet in order to arrive in whichever city Donald Trump happens to be visiting at the time. Now that MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has picked up the story, Rybolovlev is finally denying parts of it. But he's doing so through a spokesman who has inexplicable ties to Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Rybolovlev's private plane flew into the small town of Concord, North Carolina while Donald Trump just happened to be holding a campaign rally there. His spokesman is now acknowledging that this occurred, and there would be no point in denying it, as the flight plans for the plan can be tracked publicly via its M-KATE call sign. The spokesman is also refusing to deny that Rybolovlev was on the plane when it flew to Concord. But what stands out most is that Rybolovlev's spokesman is Brian Cattell – a former writer for Steve Bannon's Breitbart.

Politico, Civil rights leaders ask Sessions to scuttle Trump voter fraud probe, Josh Gerstein, March 7, 2017. Civil rights leaders who met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday asked him to urge President Donald Trump not to proceed with his plans for a blue-ribbon panel to investigate Trump's own claims that millions of people voted illegally for his opponent in last year's presidential race.

"I asked him to counsel the president against the creation of such a task force and a commission because that commission will be seen to intimidate our communities," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "In the absence of any evidence of voter fraud, he should be counseling the president away from such a course....We don't need an investigation into something that doesn't exist. We should not be crediting the fantasies of this president at the cost of African Americans and Latinos feeling secure that they're not being intimidated from voting and participating in the process."

Trump told Congressional leaders at a January meeting that he believes he lost the popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton because of 3 million to 5 million votes case illegally in last November's election. He's provided no evidence to support the claim, which has been roundly rejected by experts in the field.

Two days later, Trump tweeted that he was "asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD." Aides later said he planned to issue an executive order on the subject. No such order has been forthcoming, but White House press secretary Sean Spicer said late last month that Trump was setting up a task force on the issue under the oversight of Vice President Mike Pence.

Global News

SouthFront, Further Escalation In Northern Syria, Voiceover by Harold Hoover with staff reports, March 7, 2017. On Monday, the Jaish al-Islam militant group, known to be supported by Saudi Arabia, launched Syria Flagmissiles against government forces positions in the Damascus countryside. Jaish al-Islam allegedly captured some missiles in the Qalamoun area in 2013. The usage of these missiles is a clear indication that Jaish al-Islam, which keeps positions in the Eastern Ghouta region near the Syrian capital, is not going to follow a ceasefire agreement promoted by Damascus, Tehran, Ankara, and Moscow in the so-called "Astana format."

The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces have reportedly retaken the Jazal Oil Field from the ISIS terrorist group in the province of Homs. If confirmed, government troops will be in control of two important oilfields along the Homs-Palmyra highway.

March 6

Health Care Plans

Washington Post, House GOP unveils plan to replace Obamacare, but issues no cost or coverage estimates, Amy Goldstein, Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell, March 6, 2017. The proposal sketches out a system of individual tax credits and state grants to replace the current health-care law. But there were signs that fellow Republicans could balk if the legislation leaves swaths of the country without insurance coverage.

New York Times, Trump Asks Planned Parenthood to Stop Abortion Services, Maggie Haberman, March 6, 2017. The Trump administration offered to preserve federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which does not use that money for the procedure, if it stopped aiding in them. The group declined.

Travel Ban

Washington Post, Trump signs revised travel ban aimed at withstanding legal scrutiny, David Nakamura and Matt Zapotosky​, March 6, 2017. President Trump signed a new executive order that will ban travelers ICE logofrom six majority-Muslim nations seeking new visas from entering the United States for 90 days. The original order, which came under heavy legal scrutiny, had included a seventh country — Iraq.

The new order, which takes effect March 16, provides other exceptions not contained explicitly in previous versions: for travelers from those countries who are legal permanent residents of the United States, dual nationals who use a passport from another country and those who have been granted asylum or refu­gee status.

Trump Crackdown On Dissent?

Palmer Report, Amid Donald Trump's new Muslim ban, Khizr Khan informed he's not allowed to travel, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2017. Donald Trump signed his revised Muslim travel ban executive order today, shortly thereafter, Gold Star father Khizr Khan was told he couldn't travel to Canada to deliver a planned speech at a conference because his "travel privileges are being reviewed." Khan has been a United States citizen for the past thirty years, and recently an outspoken critic of Trump's racist views. However he immigrated from Pakistan, which is not included in the ban.

The breaking news about Khizr Khan is coming out of Canada right now, with the Ramsay Talks conference having posted the following to its official Facebook page:

"Late Sunday evening Khizr Khan, an American citizen for over 30 years, was notified that his travel privileges are being reviewed. As a consequence, Mr. Khan will not be traveling to Toronto on March 7th to speak about tolerance, understanding, unity and the rule of law. Very regretfully, Ramsay Talks must cancel its luncheon with Mr. Khan. Guests will be given full refunds. Mr. Khan offered his sincere apologies to all those who made plans to attend on March 7th. He said: 'This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad. I have not been given any reason as to why. I am grateful for your support and look forward to visiting Toronto in the near future."

Canadian broadcast news channel CBC is backing up the story by tweeting a news alert reading "Gold Star dad who chided Trump's Muslim ban cancels Cda visit due to 'travel review.' Khizr Khan not told why." CBC reporter John Paul Tasker has tweeted that "Khizr Khan, the Gold Star dad, was scheduled to be on @TheCurrentCBC tomorrow while in T.O., now 'travel privileges are being reviewed.'"

WhoWhatWhy, Trump vs. ‘Deep State?’ That’s How Light Gets in, Peter Dale Scott, March 6, 2017. From Watergate to Iraq War WhoWhatWhypropaganda, conflicts between the Deep State and the Executive branch have proven helpful to the public. They provided a glimpse into the White House and the nation’s intelligence apparatus, leading to important reforms. So perhaps an open conflict between the Trump administration and the Deep State isn’t such a bad thing.

Jury Secrecy

New York Times, Jury Secrecy Doesn't Apply if Marred by Bias, Justices Rule, Adam Liptak, March 6, 2017. Jury discussions should not remain private if evidence emerges that they were affected by racial or ethnic bias, the Supreme Court ruled.

Mysterious Imposter?

Washington Post, Police allege IT worker at Washington Post was impersonating ICE officer, Dan Morse, March 6, 2017. The FBI is investigating the Gaithersburg man, who was charged with transporting a loaded handgun and illegally possessing a Baltimore County police badge.

Global News On Bank Corruption

Bloomberg, UBS Said Seeking to Pay Below $317 Million in French Tax Case, Gaspard Sebag and Fabio Benedetti Valentini, March 6, 2017. Talks started in late 2016, deal could stumble on fine amount; UBS posted $1.17 billion bail to cover potential penalties. UBS Group AG is pushing to settle a French tax fraud investigation for less than the 300 million euros ($317 million) it paid to resolve a similar issue in Germany, people familiar with the matter said. That's significantly below the 1.1 billion-euro bond the bank posted to cover potential penalties.

UBS has been in talks since late 2016 with France's financial prosecutor to reach a settlement similar to a deferred prosecution agreement that would include a fine, but no admission of guilt, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential. The amount could be a stumbling block to any accord, according to the people.

The Swiss bank is looking to pay less than what it cost to resolve the German case as the French wealth-management market is much smaller, two of the people said. UBS declined to comment on any settlement talks, as did French prosecutors.

In 2009, UBS paid $780 million, including disgorgement of profit, fines, interest and restitution, to the U.S. to avoid prosecution, admitting it helped thousands of Americans evade taxes and agreeing to turn over information on their accounts. Five years later, the bank reached its settlement with German authorities.

Washington Post, Analysis: Levin has warned before of Obama's 'silent coup.' Now he has a follower in the Oval Office, Derek Hawkins, March 6, 2017. In 1991, a private investigator named Len Colodny published Silent Coup, a sprawling revisionist history of the Watergate affair. Subtitled "the removal of a president," the book set out to prove that President Richard Nixon was forced out of office not because of his misdeeds but because a "formidable national security party" opposed his foreign policy. The coup was engineered by some of Nixon's closest aides, who colluded with the intelligence community and the press to subvert him, Colodny wrote.

The term "silent coup" caught on and has been invoked on the right repeatedly in extreme accusations against Barack Obama. Among the term's fans is a fiery conservative radio host named Mark Levin, who used it in a July 2015 radio show, arguing Obama had imposed "martial law" on the country through his immigration, health care and law enforcement policies.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Colodny wrote the Washington Post's reporter seeking correction of several errors in the story.

Trump Critics

Washington Post, Will Comey’s request push Trump over the edge? What happens when the president loses it? Jennifer Rubin, March 6, 2017. President Trump was “mad — steaming, raging mad,” The Post reports. No one was defending his harebrained assertion that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower.

How dare they not defend the indefensible! No Republican seemed to see his allegation as credible or vouch for it on the Sunday talk shows. Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a bevy of conservative commentators set out to debunk Trump’s latest lunacy. Then along came former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who said straight out that nothing of the sort had occurred.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald and Ivanka Trump's phony Baku Azerbaijan hotel was front for Iranian money laundering, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2017. Shortly after taking office, Donald Trump abandoned a bizarre hotel project in Azerbaijan which never made any sense to begin with. It was built in an industrial part of town where a hotel wouldn't be needed. The roads being built to the hotel didn't even lead to it. And now it turns out the entire hotel project appears to have been little more than an excuse to illegally launder money coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku project was spearheaded by Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, who repeatedly visited the property and posted photos of herself touring it, even though as best anyone can tell the hotel was never going to open or do any business. It appears in hindsight that Ivanka had merely been doing all of this in order to create the outward appearance that the hotel was a legitimate project.

But as it turns out, the hotel deal had been struck with Ziya Mammadov, the corrupt Transportation Minister of Azerbaijan, who has a history of arranging shady real estate projects as money laundering fronts. Mammadov and his family have deep financial connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, making it almost certain that the Trumps were knowingly and illegally doing business with Iran. It also seems likely that Trump shuttered the project upon taking office in the hope it wouldn't be investigated.

Around the Nation

Tampa Bay Times, Scientology plans control of downtown Clearwater for retail makeover, Tracey McManus, March 6, 2017. The Church of Scientology is maneuvering to control all downtown real estate to create a master retail district that will operate under its management and oversight. The plan, according to two city officials briefed by Scientology leader David Miscavige, requires all property from Osceola to Myrtle avenues between Drew and Pierce streets being bought by the church, its parishioners or others willing to participate.

The concept involves recruiting a few major national retailers to anchor the district and filling the grid with handpicked businesses all at one time, similar to how an outdoor mall is established, said Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor and City Manager Bill Horne, who in October were shown renderings of the retail strategy by Miscavige but not given copies.

The plan does not require approval from elected officials or voters but is a vision the church has already started implementing with the help of consultants and an aggressive acquisition of downtown property.

Along with the more than $260 million in property Scientology has acquired under its name since arriving in Clearwater in 1975, and later establishing its international spiritual headquarters downtown, the church has been buying parcels in the central core for the past several months through anonymous LLCs.

Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to an email or phone call requesting comment. But since Jan. 31, businesses registered to Scientology attorney Robert Potter bought two blocks of vacant lots along Myrtle Avenue between Drew and Laura streets for $9 million; the Sage venue at 22 N Fort Harrison Ave. for $600,000; and the Trickels Jewelers building at 714 Cleveland St. for $1.9 million, according to property records.

March 5

Washington Post, Inside Trump's fury: The president rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker​, March 5, 2017. At a time when the White House sought to turn a President Donald Trump officialcorner, Trump enters week seven of his presidency the same as the six before it: enmeshed in controversy and struggling to make good on campaign promises.

Washington Post, Comey asked Justice officials to refute Trump's unproven wiretapping claims, Abby Phillip and Ellen Nakashima​, March 5, 2017. The FBI director's request is the latest rebuff of President Trump's unfounded accusation that then-President Obama had ordered a wiretap of his campaign headquarters. Former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, outright denied allegations that wiretaps were authorized against Trump or his campaign during the Obama administration.

FBI logoThe development came as Trump's charge against Obama — leveled without any evidence — was being rebuffed both inside and outside of the executive branch. It drew a blunt, on-the-record denial by a top intelligence official who served in the Obama administration.

Speaking on NBC News on Sunday morning, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. denied that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap was authorized against Trump or the campaign during his tenure.

"There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign," Clapper said on "Meet the Press," adding that he would "absolutely" have been informed if the FBI had received a FISA warrant against either. "I can deny it," Clapper said emphatically.

In his claims early Saturday morning, the president tweeted that he "just found out" that Obama had "my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower" before the election. Trump compared the alleged action to "McCarthyism."

Washington Post, Wiretapping accusation pushes Trump presidency onto a road with no guardrails, Karen Tumulty, March 5, 2017. The president's tweets may have been an effort to distract from revelations that his associates had contact with Russian officials, but instead it invites more scrutiny and deepens doubts about his own judgment.

Donald Trump's presidency has veered onto a road with no center lines or guardrails. The president's accusation Saturday that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had tapped his phone "during the very sacred election process" escalated on Sunday into the White House's call for a congressional investigation of that evidence-free claim.

The audacious tactic was a familiar one for Trump, who has little regard for norms and conventions. When he wants to change a subject, he often does it by touching a match to the dry tinder of a sketchy conspiracy theory. But the stakes have gotten higher, and the consequences more real and serious, as questions mount over Moscow's reported attempts to interfere with last year's presidential election.

Trump's response also has deepened doubts about his own judgment, not just in the face of the first crisis to confront his young presidency but in dealing with the challenges that lie ahead for the chief executive of the world's most powerful nation.

Trump's tweetstorm early Saturday made his disciplined, well-received speech to Congress four days before seem less a turning point than an aberration. "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump fired out, in the first of four tweets on the subject.

Leon Panetta (official)"When the president goes off and does what he did within the last few days, of just going ahead and tweeting without checking on things, there's something wrong. There's something wrong in terms of the discipline within the White House and how you operate," Leon Panetta (shown in an official photo), a White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton and CIA director during the Obama administration, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Trump and his allies, however, say that the criticism is misdirected. In their view, the concern over Russian interference in the election has been overblown by Democrats looking for an excuse for Hillary Clinton's defeat last November.

They also say that more focus should be concentrated on the people within the government who are leaking sensitive information to the news media. Within a government bureaucracy that tilts Democratic, "there is an active 'deep state' opposition to a populist disruptive reformer. Many believe it is their duty to break the law and lie," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich. "For Trump to succeed, there will have to be profound overhaul of the bureaucracy. To be normal in this environment is to fail."

 Donald Trump New York Daily News March 5, 2017

While President Trump and such media supporters as Mark Levin and Roger Stone accused Democrats of seeking to overthrow the presidency, the president's hometown New York Daily News provided a different take on its March 5 Sunday cover

Washington Post, White House offers no evidence, seeks probe of 'politically motivated investigation' during 2016 campaign, Abby Phillip, March 5, 2017. A day after President Trump alleged — without offering any evidence — that then-President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of the Republican's campaign headquarters, the White House said it won't comment further until congressional oversight committees investigate the matter.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited unknown "reports" of "potentially politically motivated investigations" during the 2016 campaign, calling them "troubling." "Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling," Spicer said. "President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."

"Neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted," he added.

Congressional investigators are probing suspected Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election as well as any contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Early Saturday, Trump — apparently in response to reports by a conservative radio host and on the conservative website Breitbart — accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower and engaging in a "Nixon/Watergate" effort to undermine his presidency.

But a senior U.S. official said Saturday that there was no such wiretap. A spokesman for Obama also said that the former president never authorized a wiretap of Trump or any other American citizen.

Speaking on NBC News on Sunday morning, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, who served in that post in the Obama administration, flatly denied that a wiretap was authorized against Trump or his campaign during his tenure. "There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign," Clapper (shown in an official photo) said on "Meet the Press."

Trump Transition: Neighborhood Schools, Segregation

Washington Post, GOP bill threatens to dismantle one of the nation's most robust school desegregation efforts, Emma Brown, March 5, 2017. March 5, 2017. White and black and poor and rich children have long shared schools in Louisville, Ky., with arts- and science-themed programs helping to draw students into different parts of town. Opponents to the push by state Republicans for neighborhood schools fear it would concentrate minority and low-income students apart from their affluent peers.

Trump Transition: Revised Travel Ban Preview

New York Times, Revised Travel Ban Won't Include Iraq in Restricted Nations, Ron Nixon and Maggie Haberman, March 5, 2017. The new order, expected to be issued Monday by President Trump, would retain temporary restrictions on six other predominantly Muslim countries and on all refugees.

President Trump is expected to issue on Monday a new version of his executive order on immigration that excludes Iraq, a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State, from a list of predominantly Muslim countries whose citizens will face temporary restrictions on travel to the United States. The new order would temporarily stop all refugee admissions to the United States, said a senior administration official familiar with it. The previous version included a 120-day ban on all refugees other than Syrians, who were barred indefinitely.

The new order removes the extra restrictions on Syrian refugees. It is unclear how long the temporary ban would last. The earlier order has been blocked by the courts; the change on refugees is intended to help the new version withstand legal scrutiny. The new order would not affect people with green cards or those holding a valid visa at the time the order is signed.

Trump Advisor, Friend Roger Stone

Huffington Post, Trump Advisor Roger Stone Launches Into Vulgar Twitter Rant, Suggests Back Channel To Assange During Clinton Leaks, Alex Mohajer, March 5, 2017. Renowned Republican strategist and long-time Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone (shown in a file photo) launched into an inexplicable, vulgar tirade against multiple users of the social media website Twitter on Saturday night, using offensive off-color comments, misogynistic slurs, and at one point suggesting that he had a "perfectly legal back channel" to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who "indeed had the goods" on Hillary Clinton.

Roger StoneTwitter users are speculating that the tweet constituted an admission by Stone in collaborating with the controversial Assange and an enemy nation to sabotage the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Some of the tweets have been deleted, but by midnight on the west coast, "Roger Stone" was trending on Twitter. According to the New York Times, Mr. Stone is one of a growing number of Trump advisers and allies now being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for alleged contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Stone called for imprisonment of Barack Obama, claiming the former president is responsible for wiretapping Donald Trump's phones, a reference to an equally puzzling series of tweets sent by Mr. Trump himself early Saturday morning.

In perhaps the most shocking tweet of the evening, which appears to now be removed, Stone even suggested having collaborated with an enemy nation in the WikiLeaks scandal that rocked the presidential election last November. Stone tweeted that he "never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods" on Hillary Clinton, using hashtag #CrookedHillary in a throwback to a familiar campaign motif.

Mr. Stone is sure to have some explaining to do once the president returns from a restful weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate this weekend, where he was reported to be having dinner tonight with embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and likely not tending to his Twitter feed per usual.

The question of whether Donald Trump had knowledge of the Russian cyber attacks in the 2016 presidential election could have potentially unprecedented ramifications on the future of this presidential administration.

Global News

RT, ISIS traces in Palmyra: Munitions left, child fighters' bodies found, Lizzie Phelan, March 5, 2017 (3:01 min. video).

American FlagWashington Post, Thousands of immigrants claim they were forced into labor after being detained in U.S., Kristine Phillips​, March 5, 2017. The lawsuit filed against one of the largest U.S. prison companies could ICE logoinvolve as many as 60,000 immigrants. The original nine plaintiffs alleged that people detained at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in the Denver area are forced to work without pay — and that those who refuse are threatened with solitary confinement.

Media Gibes at Trump

NPR, Kate McKinnon Mocks Sessions As Forrest Gump On 'SNL,' James Doubek, March 5, 2017. Kate McKinnon provided the most memorable political impressions of the night — far from the first time she's done so — on Saturday as Saturday Night Live returned with its first live episode in three weeks.

"Hello. My name's Jeff. Jeff Sessions. Would you like a chocolate?" McKinnon asks, in character as the attorney general in a Forrest Gump-like bus stop cold open scene. A few strangers sit down in succession next to Sessions.

"Being in the government is so fun," he says. "You meet so many nice people. Like this, this is my best good friend Kellyanne. She ain't got no legs," Sessions/Gump says, showing the infamous photo of Kellyanne Conway kneeling on the couch and looking at her phone while presidents of historically black colleges and universities take a photo with President Trump. (It later became a running joke, with McKinnon as Conway kneeling and looking at her phone in various locations between sketches.)

Washington Post, At the Gridiron dinner, the jokes were on Trump's Russia connections, Emily Heil, March 5, 2017. President Trump wasn't in the white-tie-clad audience at the Saturday night annual dinner of the Gridiron Club — an elite group of 65 of Washington's top journalists — but he was there in spirit, or at least as a target.

POTUS, per the club's tradition, was invited to the swanky but lighthearted affair at the Renaissance Washington Hotel, but he declined. So instead, Vice President Pence was there for the jokey monologues by lawmakers and musical skits by the Fourth Estate, where many of the punchlines targeted Trump and his advisers' headline-making contacts with Russia.

Trump Neighbors

Raw Story, 'We're going broke': West Palm Beach business owners want Trump to spend weekends somewhere else, David Edwards, March 5, 2017. Residents and business owners in West Palm Beach complained over the weekend that President Donald Trump's frequent trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort are making their lives miserable. NBC News reported that Trump's weekend visits were not only expensive for the taxpayers, but the safety measures implemented by the Secret Service are also costing local business owners big.March 4

Washington Post, Trump says he was subjected to 'McCarthyism.' But his mentor helped enforce those tactics, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., March 4, 2017. Roy Cohn, who met Donald Trump in the 1970s, was President Donald Trump officialJoseph McCarthy's sidekick in the 1940s and '50s — when the GOP senator sought to weed out alleged communist spies and sympathizers. 

Washington Post, Donald Trump was a conspiracy-theory candidate. Now he's on the edge of being a conspiracy-theory president, Chris Cillizza, March 4, 2017. Donald Trump's political career was born amid the fever swamps of the far right. He seized on a favorite conspiracy theory bubbling there — that then-President Barack Obama (shown in a file photo watching the funeral of Nelson Mandela) was not, in fact, born in the United States and therefore was an illegitimate president — to boost his profile in national politics.

Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela Dec. 5, 2013

Witness several Trump tweets Saturday morning that suggest he was the target of a wiretapping campaign authorized by Obama during the 2016 race.
here is, as you probably already guessed, no detail about the alleged wiretapping included in any of the Trump tweets.

Trump's tweets appear to trace back to an article Friday on Breitbart News headlined "Mark Levin to Congress: Investigate Obama's 'Silent Coup' vs. Trump." That article, based heavily on conservative talk radio host Levin's views, suggest the Obama administration conducted a "silent coup" to keep Trump from the presidency.

Here's the key paragraph:

In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.

The problem here, of course, is that what Levin — and Breitbart — use as evidence for these claims are a series of seemingly unconnected events — from FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court requests to Trump joking about the Russia email hack, to the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails in the fall. The proof that all — or any — of these events are tied together by actual facts as opposed to supposition is not offered.

The idea that Obama himself authorized — and was able to get approval for — the wiretapping of the opposition party's candidate for president is, frankly, far-fetched. And if someone is making that claim — as Trump is now doing — the burden of proof is on them. If you are going to say there is a grand conspiracy that only you and a handful of others see, you need to offer a step-by-step explanation to the broader public to show why you're right.

Trump Sons Capitalize On Clout

Washington Post, Trump's sons leverage ties established in campaign, Jonathan O'Connell, David A. Fahrenthold and Matea Gold​, March 4, 2017. A new hotel chain would extend the company's reach into dozens of cities, including locations where the president's sons made connections during their father's White House bid.

Donald Trump's adult sons, who are overseeing a nationwide expansion of the family business during their father's presidency, are envisioning ways that their experiences from the campaign trail can help them establish a footing in dozens of new markets. The idea is to move beyond a focus on luxury hotels in big metropolises and build boutique properties in a broader mix of cities, including some the Trump brothers came to know well during more than a year of intensive travel, fundraising and grass-roots networking on the road to the White House.

"I got to see a lot of those markets on the campaign," Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, told The Washington Post in a recent interview from his office on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. "I think I've probably been in all of them over the last 18 months." The initial plan is tied to the Trumps' previously announced new chain, Scion, which is being designed as a less-corporate feeling brand of high-end hotels with a more affordable per-room price point than the Trumps' five-star properties.xxx

Corruption Claims Against Attorney General Sessions

Washington Post, Federal prosecutors have brought charges in cases far less serious than Sessions's, Philip Lacovara, Lawrence Robbins, March 4, 2017. The attorney general shouldn't get a free pass.

Guardian, 'Gun for hire': how Jeff Sessions used his prosecuting power to target Democrats, Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland, March 4, 2017. It was 1989 and Outlaw, the Republican mayor of Mobile, Alabama, was girding himself for his re-election campaign. Word was that Lambert Mims, a popular local Democrat, would run against him. Some Republicans were growing skittish.  But a close friend of Outlaw's had something planned. The friend had been president of the state Young Republicans, chairman of the regional GOP, then a senior official in the Mobile County Republican party. And now he was the top federal prosecutor in southern Alabama.

Jeff Sessions"Jeff says that Mims won't be around by that time," an Outlaw aide said ominously, while discussing the election at a City Hall meeting that February, according to a sworn affidavit from an official who was in the room. A few months later, Mims confirmed that he would be challenging Outlaw. Then Jeff Sessions made his move.

Sessions, then the US attorney for Alabama's southern district, indicted Mims on criminal corruption charges relating to obscure four-year-old negotiations over a planned recycling plant. Mims was the ninth notable Democrat in the area to be indicted by Sessions since the young Republican was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He would not be the last.

Opponents concluded that Sessions used his federal prosecutor's office, and the FBI agents who worked for him, as political weapons, according to more than half a dozen veterans of Mobile's 1980s legal and political circles. Some alleged in court filings that the ambitious young Republican actually worked from a "hitlist" of Democratic targets.

Justice Department logo"Sessions was a gun for hire," said Tom Purvis, a former sheriff of Mobile County, "and he went after political enemies." Purvis was acquitted of charges against him that Sessions oversaw after Purvis unseated another Outlaw ally from the elected sheriff's position.

The decades-old concerns have been revived by Donald Trump's appointment of Sessions as US attorney general, and the mounting anxiety over his ability to remain even-handed as the nation's most senior law enforcement official given his record of vigorous partisanship. Earlier this week, Sessions was pressured into removing himself from oversight of any FBI investigations into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. Bolstering the claims are the remarkably thin prosecution cases brought by Sessions against some of those Democrats he indicted, which are detailed across thousands of pages of archived court filings that were reviewed by the Guardian.

Washington Post,  It's the Democrats' turn to take a tip from Republicans, Kathleen Parker, March 4, 2017. GOP showed how a defeated party can surge back by focusing on the basics. If the Democratic Party is ailing after losing the presidency to Donald Trump, state parties are on life support. Here in the long-ago Democratic stronghold of Alabama, the party is all but dead, say some of its disheartened members. Consider: Not a single statewide office is held by a Democrat; the state legislature is dominated by Republicans with just 33 Democrats out of 105 House seats and eight of 35 Senate seats.

Carter PagePalmer Report, Carter Page fires back, says Donald Trump was behind Russia conspiracy at GOP Convention, Bill Palmer, March 4, 2017. One day after the Donald Trump campaign tried to turn former adviser Carter Page into a fall guy over the Russia scandal, Page is now firing back and accusing Trump himself of having been behind it all. Page was one of at least three Trump advisers who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the Republican Convention, which resulted in the Republican Party platform being changed in favor of Russia.

Earlier this week, former Donald Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon told CNN that it was Donald Trump himself who initiated the push for the change in the Republican Party platform to favor Russia over the Ukraine, and that Trump had been pushing for it for at least four months leading up to the convention. Gordon, Carter Page, and Jeff Sessions all attended the convention meeting with the Russian Ambassador. Page has changed his story several times and can no longer be seen as particularly credible in his own right, but now he's directly backing up the claims made by the far more credible Gordon.

Palmer Report, Andrey Artemenko claims his Trump-Russia co-conspirator Alex Oronov was killed because of it, Bill Palmer, March 4, 2017. The bodies keep dropping in and around Donald Trump's Russia scandal, with two Russian intel officers dying under suspicious circumstances in Moscow and two Russian diplomats dropping dead in New York, among others. But for the first time, one of the known conspirators in the Trump-Russia scandal is specifically claiming that his co-conspirator is dead as a result of his involvement becoming public knowledge.

White House Chronicle, Some Flaws in Trump's Assumptions, Llewellyn King, March 4, 2017. Here are six of the motivating assumptions that underlie the presidency of Donald Trump to this point. They are flawed in different ways.

Global News

Washington Post, 'False prophet': Duterte, the Catholic Church and the fight for the soul of the Philippines, Emily Rauhala, March 4, 2017. A world of sin. A weary savior. Filipinos know the story well. Since Philippinescoming to power last summer, President Rodrigo Duterte has used biblical language to build a case for mass killings, vowing to sacrifice himself, even his son, to cleanse the nation of crime. Conjuring a world in which evil stalks the innocent, Duterte launched a wave of violence that has claimed at least 7,000 lives. With his critics cursed and shamed, and with public support for the president running high, the establishment, including the Roman Catholic Church, has for the most part stayed quiet.

But now, more than seven months into Duterte's tenure, with the death toll climbing night by night, the country's Catholic hierarchy is finding its voice. In a pastoral letter published in February, church leaders denounced Duterte's campaign as a "reign of terror" against the poor. Emboldened by their bishops' stance, priests, nuns and missionaries are also taking a stand, offering sanctuary to fearful witnesses, paying for funerals and organizing rallies. Religious leaders who once supported the president are turning their backs on him, potentially hurting his political appeal.

At stake are the lives of thousands and the credibility of an institution that has long been at the heart of Philippine life. Religious leaders helped to topple the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and have since led campaigns for environmental and civil rights. Yet many see the role of the Catholic Church receding. Critics, including Duterte, accuse church leaders of corruption. The bishops have abandoned their role as a national conscience, allying themselves instead with the oligarchic ruling class, their critics say.

March 3

Immigration

ICE logo

Washington Post, In leaked document, the case for Trump's 'Muslim ban' takes another huge hit, Greg Sargent, March 3, 2017. We keep hearing that President Trump will roll out the new version of his travel ban any day now. The White House delayed it earlier this week, because Trump advisers reportedly thought it could step on the good press he'd earned from his speech, thus inadvertently undercutting their own claims that enacting the ban is an urgent national security matter.

Here's the real reason for the delay: The Trump administration can't solve the problem that has always bedeviled this policy, which is that there isn't any credible national security rationale for it. Unlike on the campaign trail, when you're governing, you actually have to have justification for what you're proposing, or you often run into trouble.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow had an important scoop on Thursday night that further undercuts the substantive case for Trump's ban, which would restrict entry into the country by refugees and migrants from select Muslim-majority countries. Maddow obtained a new internal Department of Homeland Security document that reached this key judgment: "We assess that most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns."

This new document is separate from another DHS document that was leaked to the press last week. That one also undercut the case for the ban, concluding that "country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity."

Washington Post, Pence is an incredible hypocrite on official emails. But that's only part of the story. Paul Waldman, March 3, 2017. I have some disturbing news to share: Republicans might not be as deeply committed to proper email management as you've been led to believe. During the campaign, the entire Republican Party argued that despite Hillary Clinton's copious qualifications for the presidency, it would be unconscionably dangerous to let her anywhere near the Oval Office because she had used a private email account while she was secretary of state. Crowds at Republican events would chant "Lock her up!" whenever Clinton's name was mentioned. In one debate, Donald Trump said to Clinton that if he were president, "You'd be in jail." With FBI Director James Comey's help, Trump and Republicans made Clinton's use of private email the single most important issue of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mike PenceWhich is why this story from Tony Cook of the Indianapolis Star is so interesting: "Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues."

Emails released to IndyStar in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor's residence to the state's response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence's top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.

Cyber-security experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence's are typically less secure than government email accounts. In fact, Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.

Well, fancy that. When Mike Pence was debating Tim Kaine and said, "it's important in this moment to remember that Hillary Clinton had a private server in her home that had classified information on it," adding that "her private server was subject to being hacked" and "we could put cybersecurity first if we just make sure the next secretary of state doesn't have a private server," did he consider adding that he knew what he was talking about since he used an AOL account to talk about sensitive security matters and had himself been hacked?

The parallels don't stop there. According to the article, "Pence's office said his campaign hired outside counsel as he was departing as governor to review his AOL emails and transfer any involving public business to the state." Which was exactly what Hillary Clinton did — and what Pence and Trump so vehemently criticized her for. When Trump invited the Russian government to hack Clinton's email to recover what had been deleted, it was those personal emails he was talking about.

And Pence is not the only one: Scott Pruitt, President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency administrator, not only used a private email account to conduct official business as attorney general of Oklahoma, he lied about it during his confirmation hearings.

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

The Washington Post, With Sessions's recusal, official poised to oversee probe into Russian interference in 2016 race, Sari Horwitz, March 3, 2017. When former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. came under fire for leaks of classified information about the Obama administration's role in authorizing cyberattacks against Iran, he turned to a veteran federal prosecutor — a Republican — to help head his investigation into who was leaking.

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney GeneralThat same federal prosecutor, Rod J. Rosenstein, is being tapped again, this time by President Trump's attorney general, to oversee another high-profile case, the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling and any links between Russian officials and Trump's associates. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself Thursday from the investigation and designated his acting deputy attorney general, the second-highest-ranking official in the Justice Department, to oversee the probe. But the responsibility is expected to soon fall to Rosenstein, 52, the longest-serving U.S. attorney, whose Senate confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general is set for Tuesday.

Rosenstein (shown in an official photo), the sole holdover U.S. attorney from the George W. Bush administration, is widely respected by Democrats and Republicans for his experience working on sensitive cases in the face of political pressure, according to attorneys he has worked with during his nearly three decades in the department. What kinds of investigations could be launched into Russian election interference?

A Philadelphia native, Rosenstein began working as a trial attorney in the public integrity section of President George H.W. Bush's Justice Department after graduating from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and clerking for Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Soon afterward, President Clinton's deputy attorney general hired Rosenstein to be his counsel. During the Clinton administration, Kenneth W. Starr tapped him to be his associate independent counsel on the investigation into the business dealings of the Clintons and their associates in the Whitewater Development Corp.

Rosenstein stayed on into the George W. Bush administration and in 2005, Bush appointed him U.S. attorney for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, where he remained through the Obama administration.

"He came in under one administration, stayed under another and is now being elevated under yet another," said George J. Terwilliger III, the former deputy attorney general and acting attorney general under George H.W. Bush. "That tells you everything about the consummate professional that he is."

If he is confirmed, Rosenstein — who lives with his wife, an attorney, and two teenage daughters in Bethesda — will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the sprawling Justice Department, which has 113,000 employees across the country. The heads of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will report directly to him. And as of Thursday, he will also take on the oversight of all federal investigations into Russia and the 2016 presidential election.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Trump AG Jeff Sessions once was known mainly for bigotry while a senator from Alabama, but now his crookedness is on display for the whole world to see, Roger Shuler, March 3, 2017. No one should be surprised that Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice met with a Russian envoy during the 2016 campaign and then lied about it to Congress. Around the country, until now, Sessions probably has been best known as the most prominent bigot in a high government position. But to view Sessions only in terms of bigotry would be to underestimate him. Those of us who lived through his tenure as a U.S. senator from Alabama know he is ethically challenged, with exceptionally poor judgment — especially on matters of personnel and justice.

Jeff Sessions DOJ official photoYou might say Jeff Sessions (shown in an official photo) is a crooked bigot, or a bigoted crook. Either way, his widely reported tendency to use racist language is not his only "distinctive" feature. He also is fundamentally dishonest, as the nation has learned in the past 38 hours or so. Sessions yesterday recused himself from any investigation related to the Trump-Russia scandal, and prominent Democrats are calling for him to resign. Even some of the nation's sleaziest Republicans are having trouble defending him, which makes us think Sessions soon will hit the exits, probably within a week.

How much doo-doo might Sessions have stepped in? An article by Zack Beauchamp, of vox.com, provides the best analysis I've seen. The headline on his story: "Legal experts think Jeff Sessions is in a whole mess of trouble." From the article:

Sessions' ouster can't come soon enough for me. I lived in Alabama for more than 35 years -- and I hope to return there, sooner rather than later -- so I've seen his chicanery up close. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've felt it personally in recent days. Perhaps that's because I've reported many times on this blog about the underhandedness that seems to permeate the actions of Sessions and those affiliated with him. Here are just a few examples from the Legal Schnauzer archives.

Law Enforcement Around the Nation

Washington Post, Former journalist arrested, charged with threats against Jewish facilities, Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky, March 3, 2017. A former journalist allegedly carried out at least some of the recent bomb threats against Jewish institutions across the country, according to the FBI, which described the menacing calls as part of the man's campaign to harass a woman.

FBI logoLaw enforcement officials said Friday that they do not believe the man they arrested — Juan Thompson, 31 — is responsible for all of the calls to scores of Jewish centers and schools in recent months, nor do they think he was behind the vandalism of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in Missouri, Pennsylvania and, most recently, upstate New York.

The arrest of a onetime reporter, fired last year for fabricating quotes, was a bizarre twist in the threats against Jewish facilities, which have forced people from dozens of Jewish Community Centers, schools, offices and daycares, contributing to heightened anxiety about anti-Semitism nationwide. Even after Thompson was taken into custody in St. Louis, Jewish groups and officials remained on edge about the threats that are still unsolved.

Federal agents arrested Thompson on Friday morning, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. Thompson — whose Twitter page is full of rants about white people and President Trump — was charged with cyberstalking and is accused of communicating at least eight threats to Jewish Community Centers, which an FBI complaint said were "part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate" a woman with whom he had been romantically involved.

Thompson previously drew national attention when he was fired a little more than a year ago from the Intercept, an investigative journalism website, for fabricating quotes and misleading colleagues to cover his tracks. In an editor's note, the publication said Thompson had engaged in "a pattern of deception" and wrote that he created fake email accounts to impersonate people.

"We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking," Charlotte Greensit, the Intercept's managing editor, said in a statement Friday. "These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted."

Breitbart, Roger Stone: In Speech Trump Must Stick to Agenda, Make One Good Reference to 'Fake News,' Neil Mccabe, March 3, 2017. One of the political mentors of President Donald Trump told Breitbart News Monday the president needs to stay focused on his program in his first address to a joint session of Congress. "He needs to stick to the agenda," said Roger Stone, who was one of the first advisers to join Trump's campaign and remains one of his closest confidantes.

"Avoid back-and-forth with his critics — just stick to the agenda — and make at least one good reference to fake news," Stone said. Less than two months in, Stone said he is impressed by Trump's performance in the White House. "I think he is doing great."

Stone spoke to Breitbart News at a guest-listed book signing for his latest work: The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution at Washington's Hay-Adams Hotel. The diverse crowd of well-heeled men of influence, conservative operatives, and Capitol Hill staffers was a pretty strong signal that it is very important in Washington that Stone knows you bought his book. The event was organized by David Urban, the man who led Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania.

Global News

SouthFront, US-backed Forces Surrender Wide Areas Near Manbij To Syrian Army, Staff report, March 3, 2017.  The Syrian army, backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, including the Palmyra Airport from ISIS on March 2. Syrian army servicemen have been examining the historic part of Palmyra with the aim of demining the city.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) primarily consisting of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) will hand over wide areas west of the northern Syrian town of Manbij to the Syrian army, according to a statement released by the so-called Manbij Miltiary Council. The SDF wants to use Syrian army troops as a buffer against Turkish-backed militant groups in northern Syria and refers that this decision is made after talks with "Russia", aiming to use the Russian and Syrian military and diplomatic capabilities to defend itself from Turkey.

Just in August 2016, Talal Silo, a spokesman for the SDF, argued that the US is the only SDF partner and the group was not going coordinate anti-ISIS efforts or even negotiate with any other side without a signal from the Americans. It seems the SDF/YPG dramatically changed its attitude in March 2017 after it had became clear that photos of few US Special Forces troops were not enough to prevent Turkey from aiming to seize Manbij and Tell Rifat.

Turkey sees the YPG as just a branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), with which Turkey has been at war almost continuously since 1984. In turn, the PKK seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in southern Turkey. There are still no official reports which areas the Syrian army will control in the Manbij countryside. However, there are two options:.

March 2

Washington Post, Attorney general will step away from any probe related to 2016 campaign, including Russian interference, Karoun Demirjian, Ed O'Keefe, Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky, March 2, 2017. The Jeff Sessionsannouncement comes a day after The Washington Post revealed that Jeff Sessions twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and did not disclose that fact to Congress during his confirmation hearing. Democrats had been calling for weeks for Sessions to step away from the investigation, though he had resisted pressures to do so.

Justice Department, Attorney General Sessions Statement on Recusal, Staff report, March 2, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions today issued the following statement:

"During the course of the confirmation proceedings on my nomination to be Attorney General, I advised the Senate Judiciary Committee that '[i]f a specific matter arose where I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with Department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed.'

"During the course of the last several weeks, I have met with the relevant senior career Department officials to discuss whether I should recuse myself from any matters arising from the campaigns for President of the United States.

"Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.

"I have taken no actions regarding any such matters, to the extent they exist.

"This announcement should not be interpreted as confirmation of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation.

"Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist."

Palmer Report, Trump-Russia conspirator J.D. Gordon begins ratting out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2017. Watergate had John Dean, the co-conpirator who ended up coming clean and taking down Richard Nixon in the process. Based on the events of this evening, it appears the "John Dean" of Donald Trump's Russia conspiracy may be a guy named J.D. Gordon. He may not be a name you've heard up to this point. But he was a Trump campaign national security adviser. He colluded with Russia. And he's begun ratting out Trump for his complicity in the Russia conspiracy.

Russian FlagJ.D. Gordon was one of the three Donald Trump campaign advisers who has exposed today as having met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention. This is a key development because the Republican Party altered its party platform at the convention to reverse its policy on the Ukraine, in order to favor Russia. Gordon, who then quit the campaign a few weeks after the convention, now says that Trump himself insisted on the party platform change.

CNN reporter Jim Acosta appeared on-air on Thursday night and stated that he had just gotten off the phone with J.D. Gordon. Acosta reports that during the Republican National Convention, Gordon "did have a conversation with the Russian Ambassador." He says that Gordon met with the Ambassador twice, and that he admits he was part of the effort to change the language of the Republican Party platform during the convention to eliminate an existing pro-Ukraine policy, which worked in Russia's favor. But here's the key.

J.D. Gordon insists Donald Trump himself led the charge in pushing for the platform change, and that Trump had been doing so since March of that year – four months before the convention. You can watch Jim Acosta's CNN report here. In so doing, J.D. Gordon has begun ratting Trump out. He's making clear that he was acting on Trump's orders when he altered the party platform in Russia' favor. How much more blabbing will Gordon now do about Trump's complicity in order to protect himself?

Palmer Report, Three Donald Trump advisers met with Russia at Republican Convention; Ukraine platform changed, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2017. Three of Donald Trump's campaign advisers, including current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, met with the Russian Ambassador in Cleveland during the 2016 Republican National Convention. The Trump-led Republican Party then went on to fundamentally alter its party platform during the convention, reversing its stance on the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine.

The three Trump advisers who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention are Jeff Sessions, Carter Page, and J.D. Gordon. Sessions is now admitting the meeting took place, while USA Today is reporting that the other two advisers participated. This is key, because questions have been simmering for months as to the specific circumstances which caused the Republican Party to officially change its stance on the Ukraine at the convention. Was it merely Trump's personal position? Had Russia pressured him to do it under threat of blackmail?

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoAnd now we know that three key members of the Trump campaign met with the Russian Ambassador in the same precise timeframe and location in which the Ukraine party platform change was made. Sessions is now also admitting that he subsequently met with the Russian Ambassador on September 8th, and that the Ukraine was discussed in that conversation. This is a reversal from his denial last night, when he claimed that his conversations with the Russian Ambassador did not have anything to do with campaign matters.

This also further cements the fact that Sessions perjured himself by lying to Congress under oath about the matter during his confirmation hearings last month. It comes as little surprise that Sessions is now offering to recuse himself from any role in the investigation – he still may end up having to resign as Attorney General. This it further shatters the months of denials from the Donald Trump campaign that anyone involved with the campaign had any contact with Russia during the election.

Furthermore it's notable that both Jeff Sessions and Carter Page met with the Russian Ambassador while at the Republican National Convention. As we've previously reported, there is strong reason to believe that Sessions and his office were responsible for Page having first been hired to the Trump campaign.

Trump advisors, from left, Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus
Trump advisors, from left, Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus (file photo)

New York Times, Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo, March 2, 2017. The president's son-in-law and incoming national security adviser met with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, at Trump Tower, the White House said.

Sergey Kislyak 2016Michael T. Flynn, then Donald J. Trump's incoming national security adviser, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to "establish a line of communication" between the new administration and the Russian government, the White House said on Thursday.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador (shown in a file photo. But among Mr. Trump's inner circle, it is Mr. Flynn who appears to have been the main interlocutor with the Russian envoy — the two were in contact during the campaign and the transition, Mr. Kislyak and current and former American officials have said.

But the extent and frequency of their contacts remains unclear, and the disclosure of the meeting at Trump Tower adds to the emerging picture of how the relationship between Mr. Trump's incoming team and Moscow was evolving to include some of the president-elect's most trusted advisers.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions met Russian Ambassador in Washington DC in April 2016, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2017. Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has turned out to be the dam that Russian Flagbroke in Donald Trump's Russia scandal, new details are arising by the hour. Sessions now admits he met with with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the Republican National Convention and again on September 8th. But now turns out both Trump and Sessions met the Russian Ambassador at Trump's first ever foreign policy speech back in April of 2016 – because they invited him there.

Russian Ambassador Kislyak was an invited special guest at Donald Trump's initial foreign policy speech nearly eleven months ago. During that speech, Trump made a point of spelling out his foreign policy of going soft on Russia for no particular reason. Before the speech, Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are known to have met with Kislyak backstage for a reception, though it's not known what might have been discussed between them. This establishes two key new aspects of the Trump-Russia scandal.  

Politico, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is Washington's most dangerous diplomat, Michael Crowley, March 2, 2017. Putin's envoy is at the heart of a scandal that's taken down one Trump adviser and put another in the hot seat. People who know Sergey Kislyak describe him as intelligent but an unyielding advocate for the Kremlin line. When Donald Trump delivered his first foreign policy speech of the 2016 campaign at a Washington hotel last April, a special foreign guest was in attendance: Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to Washington.

Before the speech, the soft-spoken Russian envoy and other foreign ambassadors mingled at a backstage reception also attended by Trump and future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to an account written by one of the event's hosts. Afterward, Kislyak sat near the front and listened as Trump bashed the Washington foreign policy status quo and repeated his controversial call for a new dawn in U.S.-Russian relations. "I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia—from a position of strength only—is possible, absolutely possible," Trump said in a ballroom at the Mayflower Hotel. "Some say the Russians won't be reasonable. I intend to find out."

Sergey Kislyak 2016After the speech, Kislyak, who is tall and heavyset, headed for the door swiftly—pausing to cautiously answer a question from POLITICO on his way out. Trump "made some intriguing points, but we need to understand what is meant in the implementation," he said. That was typical for the 66-year-old Kislyak, a career diplomat and fluent English speaker who has been Moscow's man in Washington since 2008. Kislyak (shown in a file photo) keeps a low public profile: He mostly shuns television appearances, rarely speaks to American reporters and does not tweet.

But there's no avoiding the spotlight now. Kislyak has become Washington's most dangerous diplomat, with one top Trump official already sacked and another now in the hot seat over conversations with the Russian envoy.

Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned last month after he gave inaccurate accounts to White House officials—including Vice President Mike Pence—and to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak in December. Sessions recused himself Thursday from investigations involving Russian hacking and other interference in the 2016 presidential election on Trump's behalf after reports that he failed to disclose meetings he had with the Russian envoy last July and September, when he was a Trump campaign adviser.

It is not clear whether Sessions or Trump spoke at any length to Kislyak at Trump's foreign policy speech in April, hosted by the Center for the National Interest. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that Trump had greeted the Russian "warmly." In his Thursday news conference announcing his recusal from Justice Department investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions said he could not remember any other meetings with Kislyak beyond the two he has acknowleged.

New York Times, Obama Aides Left Trail of Intelligence on Russia, Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, March 2, 2017. The officials scrambled to ensure data on connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials was preserved after they left office.

In the Obama administration's last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn't duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.

Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.

The disclosures about the contacts came as new questions were raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions's ties to the Russians. According to a former senior American official, he met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, twice in the past year. The details of the meetings were not clear, but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr. Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he "did not have communications with the Russians."

President Trump, Vice President Pence, House Speaker Ryan Feb. 28, 2017 (Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool image via AP)

President Trump, center, Vice President Pence, lefty, House Speaker Ryan at State of Union address on Feb. 28, 2017 (Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool image via AP)

Truthdig, The Deep State's Hatred of Trump Is Not the Same as Yours, Paul Street, March 3, 2017. Last October, three weeks before the presidential election, I wrote an essay for left progressives titled "The Ruling Class's Hatred of Trump is Different Than Yours." People on the left, I noted, loathed the white-nationalist, quasi-fascist Donald Trump because of his sexism, racism, nativism, authoritarianism, militarism, "law and order" police-state-ism, anti-intellectualism, his regressive arch-plutocracy, fake populism, climate denialism and promise to "deregulate energy" and thereby escalate the petro-capitalist, greenhouse gassing-to-death of life on earth.

The establishment's contempt for the orange-haired beast, I noted, was different. The nation's unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire were perfectly willing to live with most, if not all, of what the left hated about Trump. After all, I reasoned, they'd been backing or tolerating most or all of those terrible things under presidents from both major United States parties for decades.

Trump, I wrote, faced ruling-class disdain because he was considered bad for transnational capital and the American empire. For the most part, the "deep state" masters who backed Hillary Clinton did not appreciate The Donald's blustering promises to roll back the neoliberal "free trade" agenda in the name of the forgotten working class. The foreign policy and "national security" establishment especially hated his criticism of Washington's long march toward war with Russia.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThey did not relish the related threat Trump posed to Brand America. It is longstanding, bipartisan, U.S. ruling-class doctrine that this country is the world's great beacon and agent of democracy, human rights, justice and freedom. American reality has never matched the doctrine, but smart rulers knew that it would be especially difficult to align those claims with a president like Trump.

As a presidential candidate, Trump openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-state-ist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neofascist sentiments and values. "If our system of government is an oligarchy with a façade of democratic and constitutional process," the veteran congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote last summer in the preface to his book "The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government," "Trump would not only rip that façade away for the entire world to behold; he would take our system's ugliest features and intensify them." They also had policy differences with Trump's "isolationist" and "anti-trade" rhetoric. That is why the nation's economic and foreign-policy elites preferred Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio over Trump in the Republican primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Flash forward to the present. Horrified at the rise of an Insane Clown President who evokes chilling echoes of classic fascism, millions have taken to the streets. The issues that concern the swirling, record-setting crowds that have arisen from coast to coast are evident on their homemade signs.They include women's and civil rights, climate change, social justice, racism, nativism, the police state, mass incarceration, plutocracy, authoritarianism, immigrant rights, low wages, economic inequality (the top tenth of the upper U.S. 1 percent now owns more wealth than the nation's bottom 90 percent), hyper-militarism and the devaluation of science and education. The marches and protests are about the threats Trump poses to peace, social justice, the rule of law, livable ecology and democracy.

Meanwhile, the national corporate media and the U.S. intelligence community have been attacking Trump for a very different and strange reason. They have claimed, with no serious or credible evidence, that Trump is, for some bizarre reason, a tool of the Russian state. The charge is as wacky as anything Glenn Beck or, for that matter, Trump (former leader of the preposterous "birther movement"), used to say about President Obama. Citing vague and unsubstantiated CIA reports, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other forces in the establishment media want Americans to believe that, in Glenn Greenwald's properly mocking words, "Donald Trump is some kind of an agent or a spy of Russia, or that he is being blackmailed by Russia and is going to pass secret information to the Kremlin and endanger American agents on purpose."

Beneath the wild and unsubstantiated charge that Trump is some kind of Moscow-controlled Manchurian president is a determination to cripple and perhaps remove Trump because he wants to normalize U.S. relations with Russia. Why, you might ask, would smoothing things over between Washington and Moscow be a terrible thing? It wouldn't be for everyday Americans who don't want to see themselves, their children and their grandchildren blown up in a nuclear war over, say, Ukraine (where the Obama administration provocatively helped create a fascist, NATO-affiliated regime on Russia's western border) or Crimea (where the vast majority of the population welcomed reversion to Russia).

Moon of Alabama, Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies, Anonymous, March 2, 2017. In its last months the Obama administration ordered the intelligence agencies to collect and distribute information of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. This to prevent any change by the Trump administration of the hostile policy towards Russia that the Obama administration instituted. The intent was also gives the intelligence services blackmail material to prevent any changes in their undue, freewheeling independence.

The above is reported in a rather short New York Times piece published yesterday: "In the Obama administration's last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn't duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators."

Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump Jr. Was Likely Paid at Least $50,000 for Event Held by Hosts Allied With Russia on Syria, Jay Solomon and Benoit Faucon, March 2, 2017. October appearance by son of Russian Flagthen-candidate is one of string of contacts between members of the president's inner circle and individuals connected to Moscow. President Donald Trump's eldest son was likely paid at least $50,000 for an appearance late last year before a French think tank whose founder and his wife are allies of the Russian government in efforts to end the war in Syria.

Donald Trump Jr. addressed a dinner on Oct. 11 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, hosted by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. Its president, Fabien Baussart, and his Syrian-born wife, Randa Kassis, have cooperated with Russia in its drive to end the Syrian civil war, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

In December, Mr. Baussart formally nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin (shown in a file photo) for the Nobel Peace Prize. Mrs. Kassis is a leader of a political faction endorsed by Russia in negotiations to end the war in Syria. The couple said they don't represent Russia and are solely focused on ending the Syrian conflict.

The meeting in October represents one in Vladimir Putin Portraita string of contacts over the past year between members of the president's inner circle and individuals connected to Moscow and to Russian interests. The Wall Street Journal in November reported Donald Trump Jr.'s appearance at the event.

A U.S. counterintelligence investigation has examined contacts with Russia involving several associates of President Trump, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to people familiar with the matter. The outcome of the Sessions inquiry, and whether it is ongoing, is unclear. There has been no indication that the president's son is under similar scrutiny.

The existence of a financial connection between the younger Trump and an entity associated with the Kremlin would likely add to questions involving Mr. Trump's administration and Russia, following a campaign in which he was loath to criticize Russia's leader and repeatedly called for better ties to Moscow.

Daily Kos, Follow the money, comrades: The ultimate case for a special prosecutor and the eventual resignation of Donald Trump, Jen Hayden, March 2, 2017. Let's start with Donald Trump's own statements about his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Watch this short clip and see how many different positions Trump takes on whether he knows Putin.

That in and of itself should be investigated. Under oath. Donald Trump appears to have a number of people around him that have extremely close ties to Russian billionaires and Vladimir Putin. Let's start with the curious real estate deal between Donald Trump and shadowy Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. In 2006, Donald Trump purchased a Florida mansion and estate for $40 million. Only two years later, along comes Dmitry Rybolovlev to buy the estate for 250% more than Trump paid for it. It was the most expensive home in America. This week it was completely torn down and it appears Rybolovlev never set foot in it. Why? Read this transcript from the Rachel Maddow Show on 2/27/17 and then jump below to see the full segment.

Wilbur RossIn the same Maddow segment, she makes the highly unusual connection between Rybolovlev and Wilbur Ross, Trump's recently confirmed Sectary of Commerce. These two, it seems, were thick as thieves. In fact, Ross (shown in a file photo) is the majority shareholder of the above-mentioned Bank of Cyrus. Seriously. This bank is also owned in part by the Russian "King of Fertilizer" who did this inexplicable deal that Donald Trump miraculously stumbled into, that netted him $60 million for doing basically nothing. There is one American who was in the middle of that bank, who was the single largest shareholder in that bank. There's one American in that bank. And tonight, that American was just confirmed as our nation's new secretary of commerce.

His name is Wilbur Ross. He's an American businessman, long-time friend of Donald Trump. Not much experience in international banking but inexplicably ended up the majority shareholder in a Cypriot bank with all sorts of ties to Vladimir Putin and to a Russian oligarch who somehow through some intermediary, we don`t know who, ended up stuffing $60 million into Donald Trump`s wallet, paying him $100 million for something that Trump had just bought for $40 million, and that the oligarch apparently had no personal interest in whatsoever, he never even bothered living in it and maybe never even visited.

Then there is Trump's original campaign manager, Paul Manafort. He was forced to resign from the campaign in August after revelations he illegally did work for pre-Russian officials in the Ukraine: Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign amid scrutiny of his Ukrainian work — but others involved in the once-secret influence campaign remain working for Trump in senior roles, including Manafort's deputy Rick Gates. Manafort was alleged to have taken $12.7 million in cash.

Paul Manafort has a close relationship with Donald Trump. In fact, he's lived in Trump Tower since 2006. Before he resigned as Trump's campaign chief, Paul Manafort was asked if Donald Trump had any relationships with Russian oligarchs.

Carter PageJeff Sessions was an early Trump supporter, eventually joining the campaign as the head of Trump's foreign policy advisory team. Also named to the small team of foreign policy advisors was Carter Page, a relatively unknown man who had been working to secure "energy" (oil) deals. Carter Page (shown in a screen shot from a TV interview) was introduced to Donald Trump by Jeff Sessions and/or his staff. He eventually left the campaign, but not before he took a trip to Moscow. Page, who founded an investment company in New York called Global Energy Capital, drew attention during the summer for a speech that criticized the United States and other Western nations for a "hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change" in Russia and in other parts of the former Soviet Union.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speech to National Association of Attorneys General Feb. 28, 2017 (Justice Department photo)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speech to National Association of Attorneys General Feb. 28, 2017 (Justice Department photo)

Palmer Report, Donald Trump changed DOJ order of succession weeks ago, knowing Jeff Sessions wouldn't last, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2017. Back on February 9th of this year, Jeff Sessions officially became the Dana BoenteAttorney General of the United States. On that same day, Donald Trump signed an executive order changing the line of succession at the Department of Justice that would kick in if Sessions had to resign or recuse himself. In so doing, Trump elevated someone loyal to himself to the number two spot, ensuring that person would be prosecuting the Russia investigation if Sessions stepped aside.

Now that Jeff Sessions has been exposed as having repeatedly colluded with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and discussed Ukraine policy with him, while he was acting as a Donald Trump campaign adviser, the reason for Trump's executive order seems clear. Sessions was complicit in the Trump-Russia conspiracy, and he was sloppy about it, and then he lied under oath about it during his confirmation hearings. If Trump knew that Sessions had been meeting with Russia, then he knew that Sessions had perjured himself – and thus he knew that Sessions wouldn't last long on the job one way or the other.

Donald Trump's executive order elevated Dana Boente (shown in an official photo) into position to take over the Trump-Russia investigation if Jeff Sessions were out of the picture. President Haider Al Abadi Sept. 8, 2014Boente is the same person whom Trump appointed as acting Attorney General a month ago, after he fired Sally Yates from the role. Trump presumably put Boente in that position because he knew Boente would be loyal to him in the investigation.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this storyline is that, as reported by Raw Story today, President Barack Obama (shown in a file photo in the White House) had himself altered the DOJ line of succession shortly before leaving office, specifically to keep Dana Boente out of it. Obama seemingly suspected that Boente was some kind of Trump patsy, and was trying to prevent Boente from being in position to take over the Trump-Russia investigation.

Washington Post, Top Republicans call on Sessions to recuse himself from Russia investigation, Karoun Demirjian​, March 2, 2017. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House oversight committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions (shown in an official photo) should recuse himself. Some Democrats have called on Sessions to resign and have demanded an independent investigation.

Jeff SessionsThe White House Counsel's Office has concluded that senior adviser Kellyanne Conway acted "inadvertently" when she endorsed Ivanka Trump's clothing line, rebuffing a recommendation by the top federal ethics official that she be disciplined for an apparent violation of federal rules.

Stefan C. Passantino, who handles White House ethics issues as deputy counsel to President Trump, wrote in a letter Tuesday that his office concluded Conway was speaking in a "light, offhand manner" when she touted the Ivanka Trump line during a Feb. 9 appearance on "Fox & Friends." At the time, Conway was addressing efforts by activists to persuade retailers such as Nordstrom to drop Ivanka Trump-branded items.

"We concluded that Ms. Conway acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again," Passantino wrote to Walter M. Schaub, Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, adding that Conway made the comments "without nefarious motive or intent to benefit personally."

Wall Street Journal, Jeff Sessions Used Political Funds for Republican Convention Expenses, Paul Sonne, Rebecca Ballhaus and Carol E. Lee, March 2, 2017. Records show attorney general used campaign account for travel expenses to Cleveland, where he met Russian envoy. The Trump administration says Attorney General Jeff Sessions was acting as a then-U.S. senator when he talked to Russia's ambassador at an event during last year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but Mr. Sessions paid for convention travel expenses out of his own political funds and he spoke about Donald Trump's campaign at the event, according to a person at the event and campaign-finance records.

Democracy Now! David Cay Johnston: As Jeff Sessions Scandal Brews, We Need a Public Probe of Trump's Ties to Russia, Amy Goodman, March 2, 2017. The Trump administration is facing a new scandal as the Justice Department has acknowledged Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with Russia's ambassador to the United States. This contradicts sworn testimony Sessions gave to Congress.

David Cay Johnston NPC Aug. 4, 2016 (JIP photo)During his confirmation hearing in January, then-Senator Sessions was asked by Minnesota Senator Al Franken whether he knew of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russia's government. Sessions replied, "I did not have communications with the Russians." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday accused Sessions of "apparent perjury" and said in a statement, "Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign." Earlier today, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz called on Sessions to recuse himself from a Justice Department probe into alleged ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia's government. We speak to David Cay Johnston, the author of The Making of Donald Trump (shown in a Justice Integrity Project during a talk at the National Press Club last August.)

AMY GOODMAN: During his confirmation hearing in January, then-Senator Sessions was asked by Minnesota Senator Al Franken whether he knew of contacts between Trump campaign surrogates and Russia's government.

SEN. AL FRANKEN: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

David Johnston The Making of Donald TrumpSEN. JEFF SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn't have—not have communications with the Russians.

AMY GOODMAN: The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Sessions twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention and in September in Sessions' office on Capitol Hill. And The Wall Street Journal reports that federal investigators are probing Sessions' contacts with Russian officials.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Wednesday accused Sessions of "apparent perjury" and said in a statement, quote, "Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign," unquote. Joining the call was Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. Many top Democrats are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate ties between top Trump officials and Russia's government. At least one top Republican senator said Wednesday he is open to the idea. This is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaking on CNN.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: It is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump. So they may be not—there may be nothing there, but if there's something there that the FBI believes is criminal in nature, then, for sure, you need a special prosecutor.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions briefly spoke with an NBC reporter.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: Well, I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign. And those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. And I don't have anything else to say about that. So, thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined now by two guests. David Cay Johnston is the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with The New York Times. He's author of the book The Making of Donald Trump. He is the founder and editor of the DCReport.org. Also with us is economist and lawyer James Henry, who has investigated Trump's ties to Russia. His most recent report is titled "Another Cabinet Pick with Secret Ties to Putin and Oligarchs." He's talking about Wilbur Ross.

But I want to turn first to David Cay Johnston. So much has been revealed in the last 24 hours, David, both by The Washington Post and The New York Times. Can you talk about the significance of these revelations?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, their significance is that it shows how we have to have an open, public investigation of Donald Trump. And to paraphrase Richard Nixon, people have got to know that their president is not a traitor. The Intelligence Committee chairman in the House, Representative Nunes, has already said, "Well, I haven't seen anything. I haven't seen anything." Of course, he hasn't started his investigation. But we don't need to have the intelligence committees, which meet in secret, investigate this, and we don't need a special prosecutor.

Justice Department log circularWhat we need is a public investigation, beginning with getting Donald Trump's tax returns, not only the ones that he—the IRS has in its possession and that they can subpoena from Trump, if he hasn't destroyed them, but also those that he's had to produce in litigation around the country; have the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation review those, so that we know how much money Trump got from the Russians, which Russians, who he's paid interest to, who he has business partnerships with.

And notice how desperate Donald Trump is to make sure we do not investigate this, how Jeff Sessions tries to blow off the fact that he spoke to the Russian ambassador, and yet, twice, in a hearing and then in a letter, said he had had no contact with the Russians, when he was, by his own account, a surrogate for the Trump campaign. This is very, very important, Amy, and we really need to make sure there is an open, public investigation and this is not swept under the Intelligence Committee rug.

Indianapolis Star, Pence used personal email for state business — and was hacked, Tony Cook, March 2, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues. Emails released to IndyStar in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor's residence to the state's response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence's top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.

Mike PenceCyber-security experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence's are typically less secure than government email accounts. In fact, Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.

Furthermore, advocates for open government expressed concerns about transparency because personal emails aren't immediately captured on state servers that are searched in response to public records requests.

Pence's office in Washington said in a written statement Thursday: "Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence (shown in an official photo) maintained a state email account and a personal email account. As Governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana's Access to Public Records Act."

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's office released 29 pages of emails from Pence's AOL account, but declined to release an unspecified number of others because the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public.

Trump Transition

Ben CarsonWashington Post, Carson confirmed to lead HUD, bringing another Washington outsider into Trump's Cabinet, Jose A. DelReal, March 2, 2017. Urban policy experts and progressive activists have expressed intense concern about Ben Carson's qualifications and conservative ideology. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was confirmed Thursday as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, bringing into President Trump's Cabinet a Washington outsider with no prior government experience and a staunchly conservative view of public assistance.

Support for Carson's confirmation came down largely along party lines — 58-41 — highlighting the intense partisan and ideological conflicts in Washington and around Trump's agenda. Carson, an acclaimed neurosurgeon, ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 against Trump and endorsed the celebrity real estate developer shortly after ending his unsuccessful bid.

The secretary (shown in a file photo) has indicated that, now that he is confirmed, he will embark on a "listening tour" to learn from career HUD employees and public servants across the country. He and his allies have expressed dismay at his delayed confirmation, which was initially expected to pass through the Senate in early February.

WhoWhatWhy, FBI Takes a Step Backwards on Transparency, James Henry, March 2, 2017. The FBI is now only WhoWhatWhyaccepting FOIA requests via fax, “snail mail” or through a special online portal, limiting the options for submitting requests from the public. If transparency advocates had not intervened, the Bureau’s policy would have been far worse.

Immigrant Crime

Washington Post, Indian immigrant sentenced to 9 years in federal prison for multimillion-dollar fraud scheme, Rachel Weiner, A Virginia resident was part of family scam that stretched overseas and netted more than $25 million through identity theft and sham travel services. Amit Chaudhry said it was family loyalty that brought him into an international identity-theft scheme so vast that it ensnared a television actress.

Justice Department logo"I never really dreamt of being a felon," the 44-year-old from Ashburn, Va., said in federal court in Alexandria on Thursday before being sentenced to nine years in prison. "This is going to haunt me for the rest of my life." On Sept. 21, he pleaded guilty to identity theft, money laundering and visa fraud. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

A native of India, Chaudhry helped relatives overseas operate a multimillion-dollar scam that involved laundering money from stolen credit cards and identities through shell bank accounts. He was part of a related scheme advertising cheap travel packages. Customers' money would be stolen, and their hotel and airfare would be paid for with stolen credit cards. Many of the more than 1,000 victims found parts of their trips canceled after the fraudulent charges were discovered.

The group made more than $25 million off fake credit cards, helped by a co-conspirator working at American Express in India. When their charges were challenged, they would use images of fake passports to back them up.

Deep State Financial Influencers On 9/11

28Pages.org, Meet 70 Americans Working for Saudi Arabia Against 9/11 Justice: Exposing Saudi links to 9/11 and other buried truths about the war on terror, Staff report, March 2, 2017. How much would Saudi lobbyists have to pay you to help undermine a new law that enables 9/11 families and survivors to present evidence against the kingdom for its alleged assistance to the 9/11 hijackers?

According to filings with the Department of Justice mandated by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), some of your fellow citizens have done so for as little as $5,000; others are cashing in on a much bigger scale. They'll say they're doing it for different, baseless reasons, but there's no doubting the aim of their faraway masters.

The September enactment of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was a resounding defeat for Saudi Arabia and its lobbyists in Washington. Undaunted, the kingdom and its fellow travelers in and out of the United States government immediately launched a coordinated assault on the new law.

March 1

State of the Union Follow-Ups

President Trump (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)President Trump (Gage Skidmore file photo via Flickr)

Washington Post, Trump seeks to turn post-speech boost into action, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and John Wagner​, March 1, 2017. In first joint address to Congress, Trump wins high marks for his steady, muscular tone. The president's speech touched on his plans to overhaul the nation's health-care system and tax code, but it was short on specifics and heavy on lofty prose. Struggling to steer a bitterly divided nation with his job-approval ratings at historic lows, Trump effectively pleaded with the American people to give him a chance and to imagine what could be achieved during his presidency.

Roll Call, Hints of a 'Shop-'Til-You-Drop' Presidency; Trump delivers first major deficits-don't-matter speech in modern Republican history, Walter Shapiro, March 1, 2017. The most striking omission in Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress was a full-throated sermon on the dangers of increased national debt. It was the most perplexing speech of Donald Trump's career.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainWatching the 45th president deliver an address to Congress mercifully free of vitriolic attacks and short on egocentric nonsense prompted the obvious question: In what storeroom at Mar-a-Lago have they been hiding this version of Donald Trump?

Critics have stressed many of the missing elements in the Trump speech like Russia, Syria, and the ludicrous notion that Mexico could be bludgeoned into paying for a border wall. But, in policy terms, the most striking omission was a full-throated sermon on the dangers of increased national debt.

Trump, who reveled in leveraging debt during his business career, does not approach the federal budget like a gimlet-eyed accountant. There will be no lectures from this president about how the government should balance its books like a family should without borrowing on its credit cards. While the speech was short on budgetary details, there were broad hints that this will be a shop-'til-you-drop presidency.

Joint Chiefs of Staff attend President Donald Trump's speech to Congress (Fox <a href=

Joint Chiefs of Staff attend President Donald Trump's speech to Congress (Fox News/Twitter/@WhileInTheWild)

Raw Story, Ex-NSA analyst rips Trump for exploiting 'trapped' widow: 'She didn't want to stand up — we know why,' David Edwards, March 1, 2017. Former NSA analyst and columnist John Schindler reacted in horror on Tuesday after seeing Trump "exploit" Carryn Owens, the wife of slain Chief Petty Officer William (Ryan) Owens. According to Schindler, the president crossed the line during his address to a joint session of Congress when he used Carryn Owens as a political prop. Schindler immediately expressed his disgust on Twitter: Anybody who saw the faces of the Joint Chiefs tonight when the cam hit them knows exactly what the US military thinks of Trump.

William Ryan SEAL killed in YemenWashington Post, Trump's emotional moment with a Navy SEAL's widow could define the president — for better or worse, Aaron Blake, March 1, 2017. While the standing ovation was a touching moment, there are more questions than answers about what happened in the Yemen raid that claimed Ryan Owens's life. (Owens is shown in a photo.) And President Trump just cast a spotlight on it.

Huffington Post, New Cabinet Secretary Wears Custom Commerce Logo Slippers To Trump's Speech, Christina Wilkie, March 1, 2017. Wilbur Ross was spotted in a pair of lux velvet kicks Wilbur Rossby Stubbs & Wootton. Welcome to the Trump era, when billionaire Cabinet secretaries wear $500 velvet slippers to major presidential events. At least this was the case Tuesday, when President Donald Trump's newly confirmed commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, sported a pair of custom-made slippers to the president's first address to a joint session of Congress.

The slippers appear to come from the uber-preppy Palm Beach outfitter Stubbs & Wootton, where slippers start at $495 and a custom pair could easily top $600. Ross was wearing a pair that featured the logo of the Commerce Department on the toe. The logo is not one of the designs offered by the company online, strongly suggesting that these were made exclusively for Ross. Ross' footwear choice was first spotted by IJR's Hayley Byrd, who posted a photo of the shoes on Twitter.

Immigration

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Huffington Post, Dreamer Arrested After Speaking To Media Will Be Deported Without Hearing, Attorney Says, Elise Foley and Dana Liebelson, March 2, 2017. "ICE's assertion that her detention is 'routine' is absurd and seems anything but," one lawmaker said. A 22-year-old undocumented immigrant arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday after speaking to the media about her family's detention is set to be deported without a court hearing, her attorney said on Thursday.

Daniela Vargas, who came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7 years old, previously had a work permit and deportation reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Her DACA status expired last November, and because she was saving money for the renewal — which costs $495 — her new application wasn't received until Feb. 10.

Trump Transition: Health Care

President Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump's words on Obamacare replacement stir up intraparty feud, Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell, March 1, 2017. House Republicans claimed the president endorsed their leadership's plan to offer refundable tax credits, a key point of contention among conservatives in what a new health care approach should look like.

Trump Transition: EPA & Foreign Aid Cuts

Washington Post, White House plan would cut EPA staff by one-fifth, shutter programs, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, March 1, 2017. In addition to slashing staff, the proposal Scott Pruitt EPAdictates cutting the agency's grants to states, including air and water programs, and would eliminate 38 separate programs, according to a document reviewed by The Post. The changes are among several for which the administration has asked the agency for comment by today. (EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is shown in a file photo.)

Washington Post, Proposal to slash foreign aid comes amid surging famine threat in Africa, Middle East, Kevin Sieff, March 1, 2017. President Trump has suggested large cuts to foreign assistance, but famines or near-famines in four countries, with 20 million nearing starvation, underscore the reliance on continued U.S. aid to save some of the world's most desperate people.

Critics of White House

Washington Post, White House rebuffs ethics office, won't discipline Conway, March 1, 2017. A White House lawyer concluded senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was speaking in a "light, offhand manner" when she touted the Ivanka Trump line of merchandise during a TV appearance.

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